Managing difficult employment relationships – alternatives to grievance and disciplinary processes

22nd November 2018

Workplace conflict is a drain on a business. It leads to lost revenue, reduced productivity and increases in staff absence and turnover.

Can you afford to leave staff who work unhappily alongside each other in conflict to fester? Doing so often ends in complex grievances arising out of differences in personality or working style, or disciplinary sanctions being issued if one party perceives the conflict to amount to bullying and harassment.

The size of the business doesn’t matter. Differences between colleagues in a smaller business can have just as much of a detrimental impact as in a larger organisation.

Left unaddressed, relatively minor disagreements can escalate and cause fundamental damage to your business.

So what is workplace mediation?

Workplace mediation is a confidential, impartial, non-judgement and voluntary process to address workplace disputes quickly, where a neutral third party assists colleagues to understand their differences and find their own solutions.

What is the role of the mediator?

A key concept of mediation is that the mediator will handle the process confidentially.

The mediator will not take sides or impose any of their own (or the employer’s) views or solutions on the parties. They are present to get the parties talking and working together to make inroads in how to address their differences.

If a party wishes to withdraw from mediation they are free to do so, but the mediator will encourage them to think through the implications of doing so before they walk away.

What are the benefits? 

Mediation will save your practice time and money!

• It addresses issues before they become protracted grievance or disciplinary matters – practice managers can focus on their day job, so productivity is not adversely affected.

• Early intervention means that your practice is less likely to experience staff absence and staff turnover, with the resultant exit/ recruitment costs.

• There are fewer layers of formality, and because mediation is participant-led, they should feel a greater sense of ownership and satisfaction compared to a management imposed outcome decision.

• Empowering employees to make their own decisions in this way leads to a reduction in litigation and encourages co-operation in future, between participants and amongst the workforce in general.

When to use it?

Mediation works for conflict in relationships between two colleagues, either peer  / peer or supervisor / supervisee.

It is not appropriate for team issues, which may benefit from facilitated sessions to air and address conflict between several colleagues and/or managers.

It is not suitable for serious disciplinary matters, such as potential gross misconduct situations or serious allegations of discrimination.

It is also not applicable to disputes over employment contract terms and conditions (either individual or collective).

How much does it cost?

Fees are based on a day rate of £800 plus VAT (plus travel costs). The duration of the mediation depends on the issues at play.

Mediation commonly runs between 1 to 3 days.

Stephenie Malone – Senior Associate Solicitor – Harrison Clark Rickerbys solicitors is a trained and accredited workplace mediator who provides mediation services via HCR’s sister HR Consultancy, Eagle HR.

If you have any specific questions on this topic please contact Stephenie Malone by email at [email protected]