Helping to resolve disputes out of court
It is not uncommon for disputes to arise either within or between organisations. There are various ways in which people can attempt to resolve such disputes and ultimately the courts can be called upon to make a judgement in favour of one party or the other. However, allowing the dispute to reach the stage where a court case is required can be not only expensive and stressful for all concerned, it can also destroy the working relationship, thus making future collaborations very difficult if not impossible. In recent years, the legal system has made significant efforts to discourage disputes from coming before the courts. A major part of this development has been an emphasis on mediation or 'alternative dispute resolution' (or 'ADR' for short).
Mediation is a term that is often used loosely to refer to any attempt to bring two or more warring factions together to find a constructive resolution to their problems or disagreements. However, in recent years, mediation has come to be established as part of ADR. This has made it a more formal process in which a neutral mediator is charged with the task of supporting the parties in resolving their dispute. The usual procedure is as follows:
The mediator meets with the parties to the dispute, preferably at a neutral venue such as a hotel. It is best if a full day is set aside for this process. It may not require the full day or may even require more than a full day. However, experience tells us that it is wise to set aside a full day so that the parties are not distracted by other commitments later in the day. The mediator begins by explaining that he or she is a neutral third party and will not take sides. The mediator also explains that it is not his or her job to make a decision or form a judgement. The mediator will remain neutral throughout the process and act as a facilitator to support the parties in resolving their dispute. The mediator will give each party the opportunity to state their case, to explain their views of the situation and why they are unhappy with it. The mediator will then spend part of the time in one-to-one meetings with the parties and part of the time with the parties together in a three-way meeting. The aim is to find common ground and a satisfactory way forward. This is not simply a matter of compromise although some element of compromise may be present as part of the proceedings.
By the end of the mediation an agreement should be developed so that the parties can sign it and use it as the basis of their working together in future. Mediation does not involve coercion and nobody will be pressurised to sign anything that they are not happy with.
In effect, what mediation does is either i) to resolve the dispute or ii) to establish that a way forward is not possible or highly unlikely. It is generally the case that 80 per cent of mediations are successful. However, even in those cases where an agreement cannot be reached, then this, too, can be seen as progress, as it gives a clear message to the participants and their organisation(s) that other steps will need to be taken to resolve this situation as an agreement has not been possible.
Mediation is a very cost effective way of dealing with disputes within or between organisations. The established practice is that in cases involving two or more organisations, the costs of the mediation are shared equally. In those cases where the dispute occurs within a single organisation, that organisation will be responsible for the total costs. However, even in such cases, the investment of money can be extremely worthwhile in terms of preventing future problems and difficulties and, of course the costs involved would be only a fraction of those involved in court proceedings.
If you feel that your organisation could benefit from Avenue Consulting's mediation and alternative dispute resolution services, please contact us to discuss your requirements.
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