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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.

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.

If you run a business and you have a conflict with a worker over their employment status, you might feel anxious over what will happen next. You have spent a lot of time and effort building a good reputation for your business. You might fear your customers will turn against you if it seems like you are trying to force out a deserving worker.

The use of mediation provides a possible way to preserve the good reputation of your business. Entrepreneur explains some reasons why mediation may work for businesses like yours.

Many people like mediation

The public perception of lawsuits is often poor. Many view litigation as drawn out, costly and sometimes excessively dramatic affairs. On the other hand, many people see mediation as a good faith effort to arrive at a resolution. Even if you offer mediation as an option and your employee turns it down, your customers may view you positively for making the offer in the first place.

Litigation details can become public

If your lawsuit becomes high profile, the public will likely catch on to it. Jurors involved in the case may talk to the media. The public will also learn the outcome of your case. You might lose, and even if you decide to appeal, your customers will recall that you had suffered a loss in court and may believe you were in the wrong.

By contrast, mediation allows you to keep your dispute out of the public eye. The process of mediating your case and the eventual outcome may remain confidential, reducing the chance of your reputation taking a hit.

Settling may not help your reputation

You might consider just settling the dispute with your employee. With a settlement, you can keep the details of the outcome under wraps and avoid public scrutiny. However, the public perception of settling a lawsuit is not always favorable. Some people might assume that you would not settle unless your employee had the upper hand in the case. You may come off looking better if you try mediating the matter.

You rely on your employees to meet customer demands. Eventually, though, members of your staff may butt heads. After all, as many as 85% of U.S. workers report experiencing conflict at their places of employment.

While it is sometimes necessary to resolve conflict using traditional disciplinary procedures, workplace mediation may be a better approach for at least three reasons.

1. You retain some control

Your company’s disciplinary procedures are probably strict, seemingly giving you full control over conflict. Still, the rigidity of your company’s discipline approach may take problem-solving out of your hands.

If you opt for workplace mediation, you set the ground rules. You also have the option of switching to conventional discipline if mediation is ineffective.

2. You focus on a solution

A stern lecture, formal reprimand or pink slip may stop conflict without actually addressing it. When you choose mediation, your employees work collaboratively toward solving the problem.

Unlike inflexible workplace discipline protocols, mediation has the potential to offer out-of-the-box solutions. That is, when working with a mediator, your workers may find novel ways to reduce conflict or eliminate it altogether.

3. You engage your workforce

While you may give affected employees a chance to respond or refute allegations, workplace discipline is usually largely a one-sided process. Consequently, it is often easy for workers to disengage.

When you use an impartial mediator to find common ground, your employees have a critical role to play in the dispute resolution process. Not only may mediation keep employees engaged, but it may also make them likelier to respect the process’s outcome.

Sexual harassment is an incredibly challenging issue for many businesses, whether an employer does not realize that a workers’ rights violations are taking place or a staff member falsely accuses someone in the company of sexually harassing them. Either way, it is imperative to handle the dispute with care and recognize how much is at stake.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment occurs in various ways, whether a worker is subjected to physical harassment or requests involving favors that are sexual in nature. Employers should also watch out for hostile work environments and employment decisions involving harassment.

The impact of sexual harassment charges

Sexual harassment charges can lead to serious repercussions for business owners. For example, many face serious problems related to a shattered reputation, such as losing key clients, other employees or business due to the aftermath of a case. Moreover, these cases are often very difficult in terms of time, money and emotions. Sometimes, the financial penalties associated with such a case force a business owner to alter the way in which they conduct business or close their doors altogether.

The options available to companies dealing with a suit

In some instances, business owners have the ability to resolve sexual harassment allegations without ever going to court. However, every case is unique, and sometimes those who claim their rights were violated are unwilling to discuss these issues in an amicable manner. If you are involved in a sexual harassment case, it is imperative to carefully go over all of your options and handle the situation appropriately.

Diverse opinions, working styles and approaches to a project make your workplace strong and healthy. Unfortunately, it can also lead to clashes. As an employer, disputes among your employees can be stressful and difficult to manage. Depending on the size of your business, you may or may not have other managers and a human resources department to help you resolve the dispute. When you need help bringing two employees, or even an entire team, back together, you may want to consider mediation.

The mediation process

In short, mediation uses a neutral third party to help identify issues in a disagreement and work toward a solution that both sides will accept. The sooner you introduce mediation into a conflict, the better your chances of success. The main steps of mediation include:

  • Ground rules – Mediation works best when both parties agree to it. Start by creating ground rules, such as confidentiality, honesty, listening to the other side without interrupting and acting in good faith. Make sure everyone agrees.
  • Discuss the matter with each person separately first – Let each person share their side of the story completely. Actively listen and ask questions. Try not to make judgments on what they are saying. Ask what they hope to get from mediation.
  • Meet as a group – Summarize the issues as you understand them. Note areas of agreement, as well as disagreement. Go through each issue and give both sides time to talk. Take breaks if things get heated.
  • Creating a workable agreement – Turn the discussion toward solutions to the problems. If they have points of agreement, identify those. Ask both sides to suggest solutions until they create an agreement they can both work with, even if it doesn’t satisfy both sides completely. Put the agreement in writing, using clear, simple language to avoid confusion or misinterpretation later. Give each side a written copy.
  • If they can’t agree – You may not bring your employees to an agreement. Mediation does not always result in success. If this happens, you, as the employer, will have to decide on the best next steps to take.

When informal mediation may not be the best approach

If the matter involves more than a work-related verbal dispute, informal mediation may not be the right approach. For example, if one employee is bullying or harassing the other, that employee may need to face formal discipline and the alleged victim may not feel safe participating in mediation. In such cases, you may need to seek advice from HR or your employment attorney to create a more formal process.

Choosing a mediator

Not everyone is the right choice to act as a mediator. As the boss, your employees may not feel as if they can be completely frank with you. Choose a mediator who is a great listener and problem solver and can be truly neutral. Many companies choose to hire one of many trained mediation professionals in the Bay Area. These people spend hours learning how to bring people together toward an agreement everyone can live with.

In the end, resolving the dispute between your employees is worth the time and effort. Not only do you keep your talented employees working together, they will probably be grateful for the chance to feel heard, even if things don’t go their way.

Quicker. Cheaper. Less stressful. Greater autonomy for involved parties. A focus on civility rather than adversarialism.

With benefits like that to recommend it, why would parties in legal disagreement ever fail to give mediation a timely and measured look as a potential mechanism for resolving conflict?

In fact (and for those very reasons and more), mediation is being increasingly resorted to in California and across the country as a comparatively superior tool to employ when parties are at loggerheads.

And on matters relevant to a broad range of subject matter. We note the broad applicability of mediation on our website at the Bay Area [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-2″]. We note therein that the process is relevant in myriad contexts, including these:

  • Business disagreements centered on contracts, employee claims and more
  • Estate planning concerns, addressing matters ranging from probate and will validity/contests to owed fiduciary duties and additional matters
  • Real estate issues (e.g., repair/inspection, contractual disputes, earnest money and construction defects)

The often-realized bottom line for parties opting for mediation to address disputes centrally spotlights its proven utility. We underscore on our website that when an experienced attorney acts as either a neutral mediator or consulting lawyer in the process, mediation can “effectively resolve disagreements without resorting to costly, time-consuming litigation.”

The key word in that above sentence is “experienced.” An individual seeking a mediator’s involvement in a legal matter might reasonably want to consult with an attorney having a demonstrated mediation background and linked success.

We welcome contacts to our firm from persons seeking information concerning mediation and other litigation alternatives for resolving legal conflict.

Most businesses, whether here in California or elsewhere, end up in disputes with other businesses or individuals. They could be vendors, customers or employees. Resolving those disputes doesn’t always happen over lunch or a friendly phone call.

The first step is often an informal meeting to try to work things out before taking any steps in the legal direction. If that doesn’t work, you may dread taking the next steps if you believe that your only option is traditional litigation.

There is another way

Fortunately, you do have other choices. One of them is mediation. Among its numerous advantages is the fact that the parties enter into it voluntarily, which means that each side wants to resolve their issues without a contentious courtroom battle. Other advantages include the following:

  • The setting is informal. This allows the parties and the mediator to focus on finding a resolution instead of winning or losing in court.
  • The parties remain in control. They control the negotiations and the outcome.
  • The parties can preserve their relationship. Since mediation requires compromise and cooperation, the parties may find a way to work together and to work past the differences that brought them to the table.
  • The process takes less time. Mediation generally takes less time than litigation, which means the parties can get back to their lives and businesses faster.
  • Mediation costs less. The demands of litigation often end up costing much more than mediation sessions.
  • The results are often more satisfying. Because of the above advantages, the agreements reached through mediation are often more mutually satisfying than the decisions made in a courtroom.

One last advantage that many people fail to realize until later is that the parties tend to comply with the agreement because they had a part in creating it.

Will it work for you?

Nearly any civil matter could benefit from mediation instead of litigation. The catch is that the parties need to agree to undergo the process. The mediator does not make the decisions, but helps keep the parties on track and offers advice regarding possible solutions, along with how a court would rule under the same circumstances. What a mediator does not do is advise you of and protect your rights. Even if you decide to mediate your dispute, you may still find the experience and assistance of an attorney invaluable.

The conflict you are facing with an insurance company, in your business or among your family members is consuming your energy. The longer you and the other party struggle, the more firmly you become entrenched in your own side of the issue. You may be spending more and more time researching the law for your point of view or gathering proof that you are in the right. All of this takes a toll on your relationships, your health and your ability to fulfill your duties at work.

It may seem that your only choice is to take your opponent to court, present your side of the argument and hope the judge agrees with your case. However, you may be interested to know that there is an alternative to a heated and exhausting courtroom battle.

How can you benefit from the mediation process?

Mediation is a form of conflict resolution that often brings a satisfying closure to those who do not relish taking their problems to court. Through mediation, you and your opponent may be able to find a compromise you had not considered and likely would not have reached through an adversarial trial.

If you and the other party agree to mediate, you will bring your case before a neutral third party in a less formal environment, such as an attorney’s office rather than a courtroom. Each side will discuss his or her issues, and the mediator will guide you in seeking a positive way to resolve those areas about which you cannot find common ground. Some of the benefits of choosing mediation over litigation include the following:

  • You will likely resolve your case within weeks instead of the months or years required to complete a trial.
  • Mediation is much less expensive than litigation.
  • You and your opponent will have the opportunity to personally engage one another instead of the submitting to the divisive nature of a trial.
  • Mediation is often less combative, allowing you to preserve and rebuild relationships that may have been damaged through the dispute.
  • The results of the mediation are confidential, unlike a trial where every aspect becomes public record.

Many people who choose mediation over litigation find that the results are far more satisfying than a judge’s ruling. Because of this, they are more willing to comply with the results. If this type of conflict resolution seems appealing, you may wish to contact a California attorney to represent you and assist you throughout the process.

Like other California residents, you may find yourself embroiled in a dispute with another party. Perhaps you attempted to resolve the situation without involving the courts, but those efforts got you nowhere. Now, you are facing the possibility of filing a lawsuit.

If this is not your first choice as a resolution method, you may want to know that there is another way. Mediation is an alternative method of resolving disputes that has worked well for others in the past. You may also be considering this method but need answers to some questions first.

Can mediation be used in any type of dispute?

Yes, mediation can help resolve just about any type of civil dispute. However, under certain circumstances, it may not be your best choice. Consider the following situations:

  • Creating a legal precedent or sending a message remains a priority for you. Since mediation does not set precedents, the results of the mediation of a particular dispute will not apply to any similar disputes that may arise in the future.
  • Getting the other party to admit guilt in connection with the dispute remains a priority for you. Mediation does not require an admission of guilt to be successful. Compromise holds greater importance in this process.
  • Believing that a jury would award a large settlement may preclude the use of mediation. Since mediation helps the parties reach a compromise, it doesn’t necessarily mean a large payout.

If your goals include any of the above, mediation may not be a good fit.

Reaching a fair resolution to your dispute

If your focus is more on resolving the dispute in a way that allows you to feel you received fair treatment and you reached a satisfactory agreement, then mediation may be for you. Because you participate in creating the agreement, you receive the opportunity to present your side of the story and then come to a compromise with which both parties can live. No judge or jury forces you into a resolution with which you may not agree.

What to expect during the mediation process

If you agree to participate in mediation, you can expect the following to occur:

  • The mediator will confirm your goals and outline the rules of the process.
  • You confer your thoughts regarding what the dispute involves without input from the other side. The other party receives the same opportunity.
  • The mediator will oversee discussions regarding the dispute and ways to resolve it with both parties present, and perhaps, with each party individually.
  • Once you and the other party reach an agreement, it’s put into writing.
  • If you don’t reach an agreement, the mediator will advise you of the next steps and point out the issues on which you were able to agree.

It’s important to note that the mediator does not represent either party. It would be beneficial to have your own counsel to represent you during this process.

Legal assistance

Even though the atmosphere of mediation is intentionally informal, that does not mean that legalities are not involved. In order to ensure that your rights remain protected throughout the process, you may want to consider having a legal advocate at your side to answer questions and provide you with legal advice as the negotiations progress.

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