Three times in the last week, but from different sources, I’ve seen commentary by mediators expressing frustration at organisations failing to get mediators involved until relations between the parties have virtually broken down. I myself feel their pain as often, when I’m asked to mediate, it’s when there has been a significant breakdown in relationships and mediation is being used really as a ‘last ditch’ attempt to try and resolve the situation, or even the employer suspects that mediation will be doomed but offering it is at least going to make them look like they’ve tried or get the parties to the place where they acknowledge the relationship is irrepairable which itself can have a value.
At the same time I came across some commentary discussing how, since the introduction of the Minimum Procedures and then their abolition a few years ago, everyone has got more formal in the processes that they use, e.g. investigating grievances using the grievance procedure, whereas perhaps years ago managers would have been more inclined to get a load of employees in a room and get them to thrash out their issues or formal disciplinary procedures being used whereas we would have formerly addressed and issue with an informal warning.
It seems to me that the missing link that we are lacking here is basic skills training for managers. Often when I am training line managers, for example on how to conduct return to work interviews as part of sickness absence management training, it becomes clear that managers are very worried about what they can and can’t say to employees and that this lack of confidence leads to the ‘head in the sand’ mentality and action often not being taken. This particularly seems to be the case on performance management. Once you train managers that they are allowed to take action and manage situations you can see the ‘light bulb’ go on and their confidence grow. If only organisations would invest more in this kind of training – it might actually narrow the performance gap for managers the CIPD keeps identifying.
I firmly believe that managers need to understand what mediation is and how it can assist them at an early stage in a situation brewing. Larger organisations can even train internal mediators to assist so the cost needn’t be the issue.
If you feel it would be beneficial to either explain how mediation works to your line managers or to boost the mediation skills amongst your managers, please do not hesitate to contact Anna