Workplace Mediation & Facilitated Discussions
Reset working relationships with our expert services
Workplace conflict can impact on the health and wellbeing of individuals and teams. It can affect their capacity to perform at their best. It can also derail efforts to create a healthy, positive and effective working environment, reflecting the values of the organisation.
The layers of a workplace conflict must be managed with sensitivity and care. But as a manager or human resource professional, your time is already in demand. You’re already wearing many hats.
We can help.
As highly skilled, accredited mediators, for over 30 years we have assisted many private and public sector employers, including government departments, hospitals and other organisations to resolve workplace conflict through mediation or facilitated discussions.
Workplace mediations and facilitated discussions
Mediations and facilitated discussions both operate on similar principles: they help individuals to engage in difficult discussions in a safe and effective way to resolve concerns and agree on practical steps to reset working relationships. Mediation uses a structured approach, while facilitated discussions tend to be less structured with the potential for increased support, intervention and suggestions from the facilitator.
Advantages of workplace mediation or facilitated discussions
We work with parties to:
- Identify the concerns and objectives
- Find safe and constructive ways to understand all perspectives
- Agree on a way forward
Our approach has a high success rate, often avoiding further internal or external complaints or legal proceedings which can be time-consuming, divisive, and expensive.
The process creates an environment that enables parties to discuss potentially challenging or sensitive issues in a more open and constructive manner as the mediators or facilitators are seen as professional, experienced, empathetic and impartial.
Engaging external experts to assist demonstrates to staff and external regulators that the employer is taking the issue seriously, prepared to invest in a practical conflict resolution and relationship-resetting process.
Mediation or facilitated discussions is a proven, prompt and affordable way to manage workplace conflict, creating a healthier more effective working environment for the staff directly involved, and others indirectly affected by the situation.
Our workplace mediation & facilitated discussion experience
With more than 30 years’ experience in mediation & facilitated discussions, we’re also:
- Registered as nationally accredited mediators by the Mediator Standards Board
- One of the small number of firms to be vetted and accredited by the Victorian Public Sector Commission
These accreditations are an important assurance to employers that our facilitation and mediation skills and experience meet rigorous standards.
- We’re skilled at mediating complex and sensitive workplace issues
- With our legal qualifications we understand how to apply the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness
- We have extensive experience in conducting mediations and facilitated discussions, including specialised areas such as online mediations, shuttle mediations, or dual mediator mediations and occupational health and safety (OHS) facilitated discussions
- We hold the necessary professional indemnity and public liability insurances, and professional association memberships
Combined with our competitive fee structure and our ability to respond to client requirements with flexibility and speed, we’re a compelling first choice for workplace mediation and facilitation services.
We conduct individual meetings to discuss the process, issues and possible outcomes.
We conduct the mediation or facilitation providing a safe and effective forum to discuss concerns, reset the working relationship and agree on a way forward.
Follow-up to check-in with the parties, clarifying if things have improved or if additional support is needed.
Specialist mediation and facilitated discussion services:
Frequently asked questions about workplace mediations and facilitated discussions
What is the workplace mediation or facilitated discussion process?
When you first contact us, we’ll ask for details about your workplace issue. This will help us to make recommendations about the approach that would be best suited to the situation to help your organisation respond effectively to complaints and reset working relationships.
The first step is to hold individual meetings before the mediation or facilitated discussion. This helps to clarify the issues and objectives, and helps the parties prepare for the combined meeting.
Our mediations and facilitated discussions are different from most other similar services as, wherever possible, we use two experienced mediators or facilitators. We use a fee structure for dual mediator or facilitator processes that results in no significant cost increase for clients when compared with sole mediator or facilitator processes.
It’s usually appropriate for the combined session to occur within a week of the preliminary individual meetings.
Typically, the combined meetings take between half a day and full day to complete. Many factors affect their duration, including:
- The number of incidents or issues that need to be discussed
- The complexity of the issues
- The emotions arising during the process
- How long the concerns have been arising and how fixed or positional the parties have become
- The impact of other prior or concurrent interventions or processes
A key outcome arising from most of our mediations and facilitated discussions is a signed agreement aimed at:
- Resetting working relationships
- Clarifying future actions, responsibilities and accountabilities
- Creating a healthier and more effective work environment
- Reflecting the organisation’s values in future interaction
The mediator or facilitator helps the parties draft and reality-test the agreement to make sure the agreed outcomes are workable and sustainable in the workplace. The parties generally commit to and sign the agreement on the day of the combined meeting.
Can I direct my employees to participate in a workplace mediation or facilitated discussion?
One of the fundamental principles of workplace mediations is that employees must be voluntary participants. As an employer, it would be inappropriate and counter-productive to compel an employee to take part in a mediation.
However, there is an exception to this.
If the issue raises occupational health and safety risks or hazards, the employer may be able to lawfully direct employees to participate in a facilitated discussion as a reasonably practicable step to eliminate or minimise a health hazard or risk. These types of discussion are also referred to as OHS facilitated discussions. The OHS obligation requires the employee to assist the employer to uphold its duties to provide a working environment that is safe and healthy.
What is an OHS facilitated discussion?
An OHS facilitated discussion is like a workplace mediation, but it’s conducted as part of a workplace health and safety process.
However, there are three significant differences between the two:
|Workplace mediations||OHS facilitated discussions|
|Participation||The parties participate voluntarily||Employers can direct employees to participate|
|Agenda||The parties set the agenda themselves (with the help of a mediator)||Employers can require that OHS issues, or any circumstances which potentially create health hazards or risks, are on the agenda for discussion and resolution|
|Agreement||Employers may have a limited capacity to require the parties to uphold the agreement||Employers may be able to enforce compliance and take disciplinary action for failure to comply (if the non-compliance creates an OHS hazard or risk).|
In OHS facilitated discussions your organisation can be more involved in setting the agenda and holding parties accountable to abide by the agreement. This emphasises the importance of workplace health and safety to staff. It also demonstrates to a regulator that the employer is serious about its OHS responsibilities.
What happens when dual mediators are used, and how can they help my organisation?
It’s not common to use dual mediators or facilitators, but we find that it’s an effective way to secure excellent long-term results, and help parties safely discuss complex and sensitive matters. Our charging structure ensures this process is as affordable as using a single mediator or facilitator. In effect you get the combined expertise of two highly experienced professional mediators or facilitators for the price of one.
Here’s how it works.
Some conflicts are highly charged. The parties are under significant emotional stress and need extra support. Discussions are difficult, and parties may not engage fully with the process if they don’t feel it is safe to do so. In these situations, there’s a risk that important issues will not be discussed, a party will not be prepared to complete the discussion, or the agreement will fail as it doesn’t address all the key concerns.
With dual mediators or facilitated discussions, we’ll often use both a male and female mediator or facilitator. It’s particularly useful if a party feels more comfortable relating to one gender, or issues for discussion in the mediation include gender-based concerns.
An added safety aspect of this approach ensures that if emotions are raised such that it is necessary to have private sessions with the parties, it is not necessary to leave one party alone while speaking to the other party.
During the combined session one mediator or facilitator can focus on the discussion and assist the parties to engage and listen to each other, while the other mediator takes a wider perspective to:
- Observe the parties’ emotions to monitor their health and wellbeing
- Pick up on previously raised themes and points of consensus that could be further discussed or incorporated in a written agreement
It’s an effective way to create a forum for complex and difficult discussions to occur safely, supporting the parties to feel comfortable with the process and create agreements to reset expectations and working relationships that will stand the test of time.
What is an online mediation or facilitated discussion?
Rather than the discussions taking place in person, video conferencing technology is used. Online mediation or facilitated discussion may be appropriate when people are not able to communicate openly, or are comfortable or willing to meet face-to-face, or during periods of self-isolation, for example during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have found that for some mediations and facilitated discussions the online approach has created an opportunity for difficult discussions to occur that would not have occurred if this approach was not available. While there are significant advantages in face-to-face communication, if this option is not available then video conferencing is usually preferable to leaving concerns unaddressed – which creates the risk of further complaints, tension and unhealthy outcomes.
What is a shuttle mediation or facilitated discussion?
A shuttle mediation or facilitated discussion is a process where the parties are in the same building for the discussion, but they are never in the same room together.
This may be necessary where there is the risk that parties will struggle to manage their emotions, or they decline to be in the same room.
Get things back on track with our workplace mediation & facilitated discussion services
Smart, affordable solutions with outstanding long-term benefits.