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Hayward Law Blog

Mediation is a wonderful tool you can use in your business in a variety of ways. It does not always have to be formal.  You can use mediation tactics when dealing with general issues that come up throughout the workday. It can even become a tool that helps prevent small problems from escalating.

If you want to put it to use on a regular basis for problem-solving, you may consider using rewards and punishments. Harvard explains these two approaches can have significant benefits in assisting you with mediating issues in the workplace.

Punishments

The prevailing idea is that punishment is not an effective way to work through problems. However, when using it in a mediation setting, it can be positive and have a good result.

In this situation, punishment is subtle. You will not use it to impose threats on your employees. Instead, you use it as a way to coerce them to do something.

For example, if you have two employees who cannot get alone, you may propose cutting their work hours so they no longer have to work together. They will probably not want to lose hours, so you can then move into mediating a solution that allows them to coexist and do their jobs.

Rewards

Rewards are seen in a positive light, but they can become negative if you use them incorrectly. When it comes to using them in mediation, you do not want to use them as a way to bribe people to do something.

You should only reward actions that show a willingness to cooperate and compromise. For example, if there is a disagreement between two employees over who gets to help a client and one of the employees concedes to the other, you could then offer that employee some type of reward for his or her actions.

Punishments and rewards have a place in your informal meditation tactics in the workplace, but it is important to use them properly to get positive results.

Workplaces across the state work hard to ensure a safe environment for all employees. Unfortunately, some instances of harassment still occur. Reports of harassment continue to come in. What can you do about it?

Nonphysical sexual harassment in particular often slides under the radar for numerous reasons. Figuring out a plan to address and combat this growing problem is crucial.

What is non-physical sexual harassment?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discusses the issues sexual harassment presents. In particular, the focus is on nonphysical sexual harassment. This type of harassment comes in different forms. For example, talking about someone’s sexual life behind their back falls under this category. So does the coercion or threat of an employee to perform sexual favors in exchange for something. Finally, gender-based derogatory remarks fall under this category, too. You cannot tell a female coworker to “get back to the kitchen”, as an example.

Addressing this form of harassment

There are many ways to address this. The first is to ensure that everyone knows your company will take nonphysical sexual harassment as seriously as any other form. Do not brush off cases that do not involve physical contact.

Next, make sure your human relations department is doing its job. Are the members of it reliable and trustworthy? Do they make others feel welcome and safe? If you need to, take a survey to see what the general opinion on HR is. Consider implementing any suggestions you get or making fixes to problems you see mentioned.

Always act quickly, too. The longer you let a problem fester, the more of an issue it can turn out to be in the future. Fast action now saves heartache, time and resources later.

If you are engaged in a workplace conflict, it is often in your best interest to make others within the company aware of the problem. In many cases, you will need to address the issue with your direct supervisor. However, it may also be possible to speak with someone higher up in the company if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your concerns with that individual. Regardless of who you talk to, it’s important to be prepared when initiating a conversation about a potentially sensitive issue.

Have a witness

Ideally, your boss will empathize with your concerns and take steps to rectify the issue in a timely manner. However, there is a chance that your supervisor will try to retaliate against you for making allegations against your colleagues. Having a witness sit in on a meeting can make it easier to protect yourself in the event that you need to take further action in the matter. It may also be worthwhile to have an employment law attorney join you during a meeting with your superior.

What would be an appropriate solution to your problem?

It’s a good idea to consider what would need to happen to resolve a conflict before seeking help from a supervisor. For instance, if you’re upset about an inappropriate comment that your colleague made, a simple apology may be an appropriate way to end a dispute. However, if your colleague has already turned down your request for an apology, you might want to ask that this person be transferred, given a written warning or face other types of discipline. Having a clear understanding of what you need to move on from a workplace incident may make it easier for your boss to take action in a timely manner.

If you are being mistreated at work, you may be entitled to various forms of relief. In some cases, you might receive compensation for lost wages, the value of lost benefits or other damages. An attorney may be able to help you obtain a favorable outcome in your case.

Diversity in the workplace remains a focus for many law firms, no matter their size. Inclusivity is not only expected but protected by discrimination laws. The American Bar Association notes that some firms are making use of the Mansfield rule, which deems that at least 30% of any workforce include those of minority status and women. 

Legal firms can broaden their relationships with clients and relate to a wider range of individuals when they earn Mansfield rule certification. 

About the Mansfield rule

The Mansfield rule gets its name from the first woman in the United States history legally allowed to practice law. According to the law, at least some of the women and minorities hired at a law firm must have the ability to apply for several roles, including: 

  • Governance  
  • Leadership 
  • Lateral  

This offers individuals positions that can positively influence the way the firm runs and its views toward diversity. 

Benefits

Applying the Mansfield rule to any firm may have a variety of benefits, even if it already practices hiring diverse individuals. They may provide attorneys and other employees with viewpoints and human resource ideals not considered in the past. This is one of the main benefits of this rule, as it exposes people to new ideas and outlooks other than their own, which may improve relations with a variety of clients and make the firm more relatable. This may also lower the risk of any diversity or inclusion lawsuits in the workplace, which may otherwise cause tension that affects company productivity. 

There is much lawyers, their clients and law firm employees can learn from the Mansfield rule. To date, the number of firms seeking certification continues to grow. 

As an employer in California, you realize that your employees are your company’s most valuable resource. Your business’ reputation depends on their dedication and performance. Thus, one can understand your desire to avoid any potential disputes that could put any strain on your relationship with them.

Such strain can often arise from a dispute with a single worker (as others infer your intent towards your workforce in general based on your actions in an individual case). This gives you every incentive to try and mediate any workplace disputes that may arise in order to preserve both an employee’s standing within your company and your overall reputation. The question then becomes which form of mediation is most appropriate.

Facilitative mediation

As is the case with many legal matters, the answer depends on the unique circumstances of your case. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, there are two common forms of legal mediation. Both address the specific role of the mediator in your dispute. The first is facilitative mediation. In this scenario, the mediator only serves to facilitate your proceedings with your employee; they do not offer any advice or expertise. Such a scenario is quite common in cases involving disputes over internal matters, given that you are the subject matter expert when it comes to your company’s policies and procedures. In many situations, the anticipated outcome of facilitative mediation is simply a settlement.

Evaluative mediation

When your dispute involves a question of regulatory guidelines or statutes, however, then having a knowledgeable third-party involved may be beneficial. This describes a case of evaluative mediation, where both you and your employee look to them to provide guidance on different matters related to your case. In evaluative mediation cases, you may even look to the mediator to render binding decisions in your dispute.

Your work environment likely includes a combination of employees from diverse backgrounds. There’s a mix of education levels and personality types. And although you made a strategic decision to bring each individual on board, disputes are bound to arise.

Profits require a continual focus on working together to achieve business goals. However, to minimize internal conflict, your leadership team must understand communication’s role in keeping productivity on track.

Communication as risk mitigation

Workplace policies define and discourage inappropriate behavior. Yet, disagreements and misunderstandings among workers could stem from something as simple as a succinct email or a colleague’s body language during a meeting.

Naturally, you can’t control anyone else’s interpretation of daily events. You can, however, recognize communication’s influence on disputes.

Unaddressed concerns between co-workers could create a negative atmosphere. Additionally, contention can distract workers from their tasks and, in some cases, lead to costly court proceedings.

Clear communication holds the potential to prevent many frustrations. For example, consider common disputes involving:

  • Company culture. The attitudes expressed among executives establish the tone for the whole organization. A drive to recognize others’ efforts is a simple, and affordable, step toward developing a positive, collaborative environment.
  • Insufficient training. The individuals on your team have varying needs, as well as the unique skills and perspectives they offer. Encouraging workers to clarify expectations and instructions might help avert questions about an employee’s contributions, or lack thereof.
  • Leadership. Invest in your leaders so they have the tools necessary to manage teams effectively. Embrace a person-centered outlook and helpful approach to developing professional relationships and improving productivity. A desire to please those who respect you is only natural, and those in management positions can set a powerful example.

Since two or more people are involved in the process of sharing and receiving information, a conflict-free workplace is unlikely, no matter the communication techniques you implement. However, a company-wide commitment to improve interactions may reduce challenges that could take your progress off course.

When it comes to diversity in the workplace, you may be overlooking a very important type: the diversity of thought. 

While people of different races and cultural backgrounds certainly help maintain a diverse work crew, if everyone thinks the same way then you may not be fully embracing the difference in the way people think. Here are some questions to ask yourself when determining if your company values a difference in opinion as diversity. 

1. Do your leaders want to lead, or do they want to control?

Leaders in your company play a very important role when it comes to employee retention, diversity and success in the workplace. If you have leaders in place that are more interested in controlling a group of people than they are teaching them how to be successful, they may discourage thought diversity, or even punish it. 

Be sure to put the right people in the right positions and reward leadership accordingly. 

2. Is the business defining your employees?

According to a Forbes.com article, having a business that defines your employees may indicate a lack of thought diversity. In these situations, the company culture overrides the individual’s culture in the workplace. The company expects employees to fit into a box the company makes for them. This includes acting and thinking in certain ways. 

While it is always important to maintain a professional demeanor while at work, allowing employees to define the business culture can go a long way towards embracing diversity. 

Encouraging employees to question old ways of thinking and using those ideas to implement changes are great steps on the road towards having a more diverse workplace. 

Employers have a lot of tasks and responsibilities in front of them. One major consideration is the level of inclusivity of your workplace. This goes beyond just legal considerations regarding harassment and discrimination. While it is crucial you establish a workplace free of mistreatment of others, you must also strive to make every worker feel at home.

This is the goal of an inclusive workplace: that all staff is equally respected and that their voices are equally heard. It is up to employers to create an inclusive culture, and ensure this culture is properly maintained. CIO offers some effective strategies to boost workplace inclusivity.

Express empathy towards your team

Perhaps you do not know exactly what it is like to be left out because of your skin color, ethnicity, or gender. However, virtually all human beings have experienced feelings of rejection at some point. Tap into these feelings and consider the effect they had on you. Now put yourself in the place of your staff, who may feel unwelcomed or unwanted at work. Empathy is a key component of successful leadership, and it also allows you to meet workers where they live when it comes to inclusivity.

Do not rely solely on quotas

Quotas are good for expanding your pool of qualified candidates to include more ethnicities and races. However, they are not the end all, be all of an inclusive workplace. Consider the type of environment a new hire of color is coming into. Is company culture amenable to people from different backgrounds? Are all staff members encouraged to contribute during meetings, or is conversation typically relegated to the same faces? Hiring a diverse staff is only the beginning, so do not waste too much time patting yourself on the back.

Emphasize the joys of inclusivity

If majority workers feel “attacked” by your inclusivity process, regardless if these feelings have merit, they are likely to push back against it. While you must implement the proper hiring practices and policies to ensure all workers feel at home, you should also allow your staff to get to know each other on a personal level. Schedule lunches and happy hours, so your team can banter and trade stories. Getting over one’s bias or prejudice is sometimes as simple as sitting down and sharing a meal with a person from a different background.

When you hire someone, you invest in their role in the company. Sometimes, however, you have to let go of an employee who fails to meet expectations. 

Protect your legal interests by following California laws and best practices when terminating a worker at your company. 

Maintain a written record

Keeping careful personnel files can support termination in court. If a disgruntled employee claims discrimination or wrongful termination, you should have evidence of past discipline and warnings. 

You should also document the decision to end a person’s tenure with the company. If several members of the leadership team met to discuss the next steps, for example, keep notes of that meeting. 

Pay final wages immediately

In California, you must provide an employee with his or her outstanding pay immediately upon termination. You must also pay for unused vacation days if an employee has paid time off as a benefit. Workers who do not receive the full payout on the last day of work can claim a late fee for each day of delay. 

Provide COBRA notification

If your company has at least 20 employees, you must continue to offer terminated employees access to group health insurance coverage. In addition to this federal COBRA law, California requires companies with 2 to 19 employees to offer state COBRA for up to 36 months. If these provisions apply to your firm, you must give the fired worker written notice about their COBRA rights within 30 days. 

Telling the worker in person in a calm, professional manner can help ease the transition. Prepare to eliminate access to company accounts and retrieve company property immediately after this meeting.

Employers have a lot of tasks and responsibilities in front of them. One major consider is the level of inclusivity of your workplace. This goes beyond just legal considerations regarding harassment and discrimination. While it is crucial you establish a workplace free of mistreatment of others, you must also strive to make every worker feel at home. 

This is the goal of an inclusive workplace: that all staff is equally respected and that their voices are equally heard. It is up to employers to create an inclusive culture, and ensure this culture is properly maintained. CIO offers some effective strategies to boost workplace inclusivity. 

Express empathy towards your team

Perhaps you do not know exactly what it is like to be left out because of your skin color, ethnicity, or gender. However, virtually all human beings have experienced feelings of rejection at some point. Tap into these feelings and consider the effect they had on you. Now put yourself in the place of your staff, who may feel unwelcome or unwanted at work. Empathy is a key component of successful leadership, and it also allows you to meet workers where they live when it comes to inclusivity. 

Do not rely solely on quotas

Quotas are good for expanding your pool of qualified candidates to include more ethnicities and races. However, they are not the end all, be all of an inclusive workplace. Consider the type of environment a new hire of color is coming into. Is company culture amenable to people from different backgrounds? Are all staff members encouraged to contribute during meetings, or is conversation typically relegated to the same faces? Hiring a diverse staff is only the beginning, so do not waste too much time patting yourself on the back. 

Emphasize the joys of inclusivity

If majority workers feel “attacked” by your inclusivity process, regardless if these feelings have merit, they are likely to push back against it. While you must implement the proper hiring practices and policies to ensure all workers feel at home, you should also allow your staff to get to know each other on a personal level. Schedule lunches and happy hours, so your team can banter and trade stories. Getting over one’s bias or prejudice is sometimes as simple as sitting down and sharing a meal with a person from a different background.