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?”