Could you be a Workplace Mediator?
While there are many advantages to using an independent mediator in workplace conflict resolution, some organisations choose to train one of their employees – usually a manager or HR staff member – to act an in-house mediator. There are some benefits to this; the mediator is familiar with the company’s procedures and may know what kind of solution would be best for the parties concerned and the business.
For those who gain a qualification in mediation, it’s a good career move. Having the skills to be a mediator suggests that you are an excellent communicator, influencer and problem solver. However, it does take a certain kind of person to be a successful mediator. Here are the top 5 qualities that we think are necessary:
The personal touch
Interpersonal skills are a must-have to be an effective workplace mediator. This means that you must be interested in the opinions of the parties affected and use your listening skills to identify links and common causes within their viewpoints. Experience in handling grievances or difficult situations such as redundancies can help to give you the required insight into working relationships and how they can be led.
The concept of emotional intelligence has now been around for a couple of decades and covers the ability to understand people’s emotions and how they affect behaviour. It’s crucial that the mediator remains calm, even if everyone else is expressing anger, frustration, upset or anxiety. Empathy is an important quality to have, as it ensures that you understand the underlying motivations and priorities of the people caught up in the dispute. Without this, you’ll struggle to find a path that everyone will agree to follow.
While mediation demands a range of softer skills, these will build to nothing unless you are able to keep everyone on track and remind them of the goals set within the process. This is where skills in encouraging people to compromise and collaborate come into play. Experience in facilitating meetings, brainstorming sessions and workshops (especially role play situations) are useful practice in building a group’s capacity to reach consensus.
Any tactics that a mediator adopts have to be practical and realistic. They also need to be meaningful; nobody will sign up to solutions that are woolly or vague. You therefore need to demonstrate a practical streak by suggesting actions that you believe will work and that can be measured. In adopting an orderly approach, everyone will understand who is responsible for doing what as they work towards a successful conclusion.
To obtain buy-in, the mediator must be seen as credible. In order to achieve this, you must project confidence and consistency in the way you approach conflict and interact with the affected parties. The golden rule is: never promise to do something and then fail to deliver. This would compromise the trust placed in you and risk making the situation even worse.
By undertaking a recognised qualification in mediation, you would get the chance to practise the above skills and more in role play and training sessions. Mediators improve their performance with experience so, if you choose a training provider, make sure that they offer you support for a period of time afterwards.