Mediation: finding common ground

Vanja and Marek are no longer on speaking terms. Vanja took over the group six months ago and has been working to make the service more customer-oriented. But Marek thinks the most important thing is technical excellence. He thinks Vanja’s making compromises and following the latest fad, giving customers too much of a sales pitch rather than focusing on developing innovative technical solutions. Marek also feels harassed by Vanja, and it’s only on his colleagues’ insistence that he’s agreed to try mediation before filing a complaint.

Mediation is an informal meeting organised by a third party, aimed at resolving differences between two people. Successful mediation relies on a few conditions being met:

  • the two parties participate voluntarily: Vanja and Marek both agree to the process and no one forces them to take part;
  • both parties commit to finding a fair solution that suits everyone: neither Vanja nor Marek seeks an advantage over the other; they pursue a common goal;
  • the discussions focus on the future: Vanja and Marek refrain from airing grievances and focus on improving their relationship;
  • all conversations remain confidential.

My role as mediator is:

  • to remain neutral and impartial: I won’t side with either Vanja or Marek;
  • to refrain from suggesting solutions myself: Vanja and Marek must come up with the answers themselves, through discussion;
  • to facilitate conversation between the two parties so they can find common ground.

How does mediation work?

First, I’ll prepare the conversation by holding separate meetings with Vanja and Marek. During these meetings, I’ll make sure I fully understand the situation, the different points of view, the emotions involved and, above all, what’s at stake for each party. This will prepare us for the group discussion. Then, when we all sit down together, Vanja and Marek will each have the chance to speak in turn, with no interruptions. I’ll use this opportunity to sum up what I’ve heard, focusing on their shared interests, before letting them speak again so they can discuss their situation and find a solution. After this conversation, Vanja and Marek should be able to resolve their differences and agree on concrete actions, as well as on what steps to take if one of them breaks the terms of the agreement.

After the mediation, Marek understood that customers wanted to be able to monitor progress over the course of the project. He therefore committed to making himself available and keeping them informed. Vanja, meanwhile, realised Marek needed some independence and promised to stop interfering in his relationship with his customers.

So, if you find yourself in an impossible situation with a colleague, consider using the mediation service provided by the Ombud and CERN’s Human Resources department!

 

If you’d like to comment on any of my articles or suggest a topic that I could write about, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at Ombuds@cern.ch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Pierre Gildemyn

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