Mediation is a structured process in which an external party, called a mediator, helps participants generate and evaluate options that would allow them to reach a mutual agreement. It is an informal and confidential process.
The mediator does not have the power to impose an agreement on the parties, who should find it by themselves. However, the mediator controls the process. He arranges the meetings in agreement with the parties, and coordinates the details (concerning the speaking times, for example) and ensures that the parties respect of the rules which have been agreed on. He also favours advancing of the process towards a solution.
The mediation process is centred on the search for a solution and a mutual agreement. In such a process, the mediator takes a neutral and impartial position, and does not advocate for a single party. He favours good communication between the parties, and will ensure that mutual respect is maintained and that the correct language is used during the discussions. The mediator can also, on occasion, reformulate sentences made by the parties so everyone can easily listen to them. He helps the parties to find win-win solutions to their worries. Such solutions are the most favourable ones for long-term agreements and respect from all participants. Finding these solutions is the responsibility of the parties themselves, with the help of the mediator.
Some rules of conduct should be agreed beforehand and, most importantly, participation must be made in good faith. The first thing that the mediator has to observe is whether or not this good faith exists; else there is no point in beginning mediation.
The rules are quite obvious: confidentiality of the debates, no interruption when someone talks, mutual respect, correct language (including body language), and proof of a positive attitude in the search for a common solution. It is also essential that the participants have the power of deciding. Effective mediation cannot make sense if the participants are under the impression that decisions concerning them are taken outside the meetings by other people.
The subjects for discussion are brought in by the parties, who agree to stay open to every debate. When the list of the problems is considered complete, as well as their priority, the discussion can start along a process coordinated by the mediator. It is a good practice that the mediator first discusses with each party separately. Such discussion often lets the participants relieve any pressure.
At the end of the mediation, if an agreement is found, the parties can decide whether or not they would like it to be written, and to whom such a summary should be sent to.
The Ombuds offers mediation to anyone who would like to resolve his/her issue with someone through a confidential and informal process. Generally it is helpful, and certainly in the interest of the parties, and of CERN.
Mediation, or facilitated discussion, could be more widely considered at CERN to resolve conflicts in an informal way. The Ombuds is here to help. Consider discussing such possibility with him in cases of dispute, misunderstanding or lack of communication.