How to deal with a difficult mediator?

Well, obviously that wouldn’t be referring to any of us! However, it is a question posed by a blog post on the Harvard Law School’s Daily Blog from its Program on Negotiation. While the article suggests that it is probably better to have a mediator with a warm empathetic style, it does also suggest that an aggressive or difficult mediator might not always be a bad thing either. It conjectures that it may lead to the warring parties collaborating with each other to defeat the common enemy, namely the mediator! Although one may be able to understand the logic of that approach, the best lesson to draw from the article is probably to take a lot of care about choosing the right mediator. This will be the topic of the next article in this blog.

In the meantime, it is always worth bearing in mind that thinking that someone is ‘difficult’ is often  just a reflection of a perceived imbalance of power as between yourself and that other person. If you begin to recognise and address the power imbalance, you will often find that the ‘difficult’ person becomes much more manageable.

What’s holding you back?

The last three decades have seen a shift in the nature of workplace conflict away from collective industrial disputes towards a culture of individual rights and private claims. However, the mechanisms for resolving conflict within the workplace have been very slow to adjust to this change. The default processes in most workplaces remain the grievance and disciplinary procedures. For a fairly brief period between 2004 and 2009 we had the statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures which most would agree were an utter disaster and this fact contributed much to the conclusions of the Gibbons Report in 2007, which came down heavily in favour of less formal and more resolution based processes to address workplace issues. Continue reading “What’s holding you back?”

Pulling a sickie…

I have just read an excellent article from solicitors Ellis Whittam on dismissing employees who ‘pull a sickie’. However, it is important to see dimsissal as very much a last resort. In my experience, there is usually much more to this sort of absenteeism than meets the eye. It is sometimes caused by indolence or poorly managed personal life, but it is often caused by something connected to the workplace. This makes it critically important for an employer faced with persistent short-term absenteeism to explore carefully the underlying reasons for the absences. Continue reading “Pulling a sickie…”

A Positive Approach to Conflict

Conflict is not all bad. Indeed, it can be very good. A degree of conflict is probably inevitable in almost any situation involving prolonged human interaction, so finding a way to harness its positive effects will always be a good approach to adopt. This is especially true in the workplace where the consequences of failing to approach conflict positively can be very damaging to the whole organisation.

Many of the seriously negative consequences of conflict within an organisation come from a failure to identify and deal with the conflict at an early enough stage. Continue reading “A Positive Approach to Conflict”

Stuck in Neutral?

A short and (hopefully) thought-provoking LinkedIn article by Antony Sendall as to whether or not it is necessary or desirable for a mediator to even attempt to be neutral.

Read article here

Get back to basics to give yourself the competitive edge

Improving Profitability-Empowering Teams

How many issues end up being addressed by HR that could have been resolved by management through effective communication at an earlier point in time ? Learning how to undertake a difficult conversation or how to faciliate a conversation between others can promote early resolution and avoid issues spiralling into a problem. Continue reading “Get back to basics to give yourself the competitive edge”

Retain employees and save money!

An interesting article in HR Review highlights some new research from AXA PPP Healthcare which shows that it can cost SMEs £30,000 to replace an employee (

It is trite to state that conflict and poor relationships at work lead to lower retention rates. Most HR professionals will be familiar with the old adage that people leave their bosses not their jobs. This article provides some further evidence of the sorts of savings that can be achieved by reducing the levels of conflict and improving the culture of an organisation. The financial benefits of lower staff turnover are undeniable. If introducing a workplace culture where there is less conflict only leads to the retention of one member of staff who otherwise would have left, the employer is going to be ‘quids in’.

Resolving conflict the Icelandic way?

According to an article in HR Review ( Icelandic women are protesting at the 14% gender pay gap in Iceland by leaving work 14% early. How effective it will be only time will tell.

Of course, in the UK the gender pay gap is a bit less at 9.4% for full time employees, so a similar protest (even if it could be lawfully carried out) would have rather less impact.

Obviously, another way to approach the issue might be to find a way to start a dialogue with your employer or (dare we suggest?) seek to engage in workplace mediation. There is a time and a place for symbolic protest, but there should always be time to talk too.

How to Start Managing Workplace Conflict

A Few Key Pointers

The cost of workplace conflict is eye-wateringly high. Many of the costs are also hidden or difficult to calculate because of the unpredictable or unknown impacts that conflict can have on almost every aspect of a business – see The Unassailable Business Case. There are obvious costs such as legal bills for advice and representation, but in addition, there is a whole array of other costs, some of which can be calculated and others that can only be guessed at. These ‘hidden’ costs include (but are certainly not limited to) the following: Continue reading “How to Start Managing Workplace Conflict”

Creative Mediation Solutions

Combatting the Einstellung Effect

The Einstellung Effect ( describes the marked tendency of humans to attempt to solve a new problem by approaching it in the same way as other problems that they have solved successfully in the past. This is something that we seem to do instinctively and can lead us to fail to find or to ignore simpler or more effective solutions – see the fascinating Luchins Water Jar Experiment (below). Interestingly, research shows very clearly that the more stressful the situation, the more prone we are to exhibit the Einstellung Effect. Of course, conflict is a notorious source of stress. Continue reading “Creative Mediation Solutions”