Conflicts are natural. Every team experiences them. Complete mutual understanding between everyone is impossible; there are periodic clashes of interests and views, which lead to tension in communication.
Conflicts can be destructive or constructive. Destructive conflicts have a negative impact on various aspects of life and activities of team members, but on the other hand constructive conflict can give rise to something interesting and new.
So, how to make conflict beneficial to the team? There are several important points involved, the first of which is that you should not let everything continue without taking action, since such an approach often leads to a gradual worsening of the situation. Secondly, it is necessary to start working with the conflict as early as possible; the longer everything drags on, the more severe the consequences will be. Thirdly, it is important to choose the right approach to conflict resolution, one of which is mediation. In Ukraine, it is used more and more often to address real-life situations.
WHAT IS MEDIATION
Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution where a mediator is involved in the process. Such an intermediary is called a mediator. He / she helps the interested parties to establish communication without taking sides, but rather facilitates communication to enable participants in the conflict to arrive at the solution themselves. The mediator does not make any decisions for them, but only expedites negotiations!
The entire process of mediation is aimed at reaching an agreement and improving relations between the participants in the dispute.
HOW MEDIATION IS BUILT
Not every conflict involving a “third party” is mediated. It is a structured, step-by-step process, not simply a matter of “switching the arbitrator on”.
Mandatory features of mediation are as follows:
• Availability of a mediator.
• Privacy! Neither the mediator nor the parties to the conflict disclose what happens during the mediation (except in situations where one of the participants may harm her/himself or others).
• Participants make a decision to enter into mediation negotiations exclusively of their own free will! It is also important that the process can be voluntarily terminated at any stage.
• Equal distance of the mediator to all participants in the conflict, impartiality. The mediator is neutral regarding the conflict. He or she seeks to help find a solution to suit all parties, but in no circumstances enters into an argument and does not take sides.
• Distribution of responsibility – each participant is responsible for his or her own “work area”. Parties to the conflict are responsible for making a decision, while the mediator is responsible for following procedures.
• Focus on a specific case. The solution should not be stereotyped, but should take into account all the factors in each specific situation.
• Results remain open for discussion. Participants are not obliged to agree with the decision if for any reason they feel it does not suit them.
Mediation has its own structure in which every element is in its place and has significance.
Stage 1 – Preparation.
This is constitutes an integral part of the process. The mediator holds a prior consultation with each participant involved in the conflict. The purpose of this communication is to explain the “rules”, and to agree on organizational points (time and place of negotiations). The task of the mediator at this stage is to establish contact with the participants and organize space for further work.
Stage 2 – Introduction (introductory statement by mediator).
The mediator explains the mediation procedure and makes sure that parties fully understand its purpose.
Stage 3 – stories of the parties.
All the parties in turn voice their point of view and share their feelings. Mediators confine themselves to facilitating communication between the participants. At this stage, it is necessary to formulate problematic issues. Until they are formulated, there is no point in moving forward, as there is a high probability that negotiations will reach an impasse.
Stage 4 – Finding a solution.
Any decision should be subject to discussion in order to reflect on whether it is really the best option. It is important to honestly discuss whether the chosen solutions can be realistically implemented.
Stage 5 – Decision approval.
It is advisable to approve any decision adopted with an agreement in writing. This will help in the reinforcement of any settlement, since verbal agreement is easier to ignore.
PRINCIPLES OF MEDIATION
The principles of professional ethics and behavior of a mediator is covered in detail in the Mediator’s Code (Code of Conduct) adopted by the European Council. The code of conduct for mediators was initially drawn up by a group of practitioners with the support of the European Commission and was adopted at a conference in Brussels on June 2, 2004.
The goal of the mediator’s work is to transform the conflict into cooperation. To this end, he or she must adhere to the following guidelines:
• Understand the feelings of each conflict participant (be empathetic)
• Be open
• Unconditionally accept all the parties
• Form the perception of the conflict as a natural phenomenon, and not someone’s fault.
Canadian researcher Robert Burt formulated the principles of moderator activity as follows:
• Task – time – tools. The task must be clear, the time must be clearly defined and agreed upon by all parties, and the tools for work must be available. The moderator is responsible for this.
• Process, not content. The moderator makes sure that parties follow the procedure. He or she encourages cooperation, but does not make decisions for the parties involved.
• Judgment, not condemnation. The moderator does not evaluate or criticize parties.
• Response, not a reaction. The Moderator should not react to what he or she hears from the standpoint of his or her own values and beliefs.
• Dignity and respect breed trust. The moderator equally respects each participant of the conflict.
• Mandate and permission. The moderator must make sure that parties have given him or her the authority to explore and work on their conflict.
• Place, position, presence. The moderator must always bear in mind that he or she should remain equidistant from the parties and facilitate cooperation between them.
• Listen, listen, listen. By listening, the moderator allows the hidden conflict to come to the surface.
• Care about the process, not the result. The moderator does not offer a ready-made solution, even if it seems obvious.
This method of conflict resolution provides a non-aggressive approach and a focus on restoring relationships. With proper organization and with the participation of an experienced moderator, the process is very effective.
Author: Iuliia Panchenko
Illustration: Tim Gouw, Unsplash open source