Disputes within the workplace are common, and many of them are minor and can be resolved between the parties. When a conflict escalates, however, it can create major problems for the organization. The parties no longer get along, communication breaks down, and productivity suffers.
Major disputes like these cannot simply be ignored. If they are not dealt with, this could foster an increasingly toxic work environment in which morale is decreased and far more people throughout the organization are affected. Another possible result could be employment litigation, which can get very costly for everyone involved.
Most organizations have policies and procedures in place to resolve conflicts before they ever become legal issues. This usually involves a manager or supervisor attempting to resolve the dispute or having someone from the human resources (HR) department get involved. While this approach can sometimes produce positive results, that is not always the case.
There are some inherent flaws with having someone inside of the company deal with workplace disputes, the main one being the perception that the process is unfair. For example, if two coworkers do not get along because of a personality conflict and a manager steps in to try to resolve the dispute, at least one of the parties is likely to say that they are receiving unfavorable treatment. Whether this is really happening or not, an employee may be able to justify this perception by pointing to the fact that the manager has a closer relationship with the other coworker.
If there is a problem between an employee and their supervisor, this type of dispute is often dealt with by someone in the HR department. But even though the conflict is being handled by someone who does not work correctly with the two parties, the employee is still likely to perceive the HR person as part of “management” and therefore biased in favor of their supervisor.
Outside Mediation: A Better Way to Resolve Workplace Conflicts
These days, organizations of all sizes outsource a lot of their tasks. For example, they may hire an outside agency to produce an effective marketing strategy that will maximize ROI. They may also have an outside firm to handle their accounting and taxes, receive incoming calls, perform technical work, and many others. The main reason outsourcing these tasks makes good sense is that it allows organizations to leverage the experience and expertise of professionals who are able to produce far better results than if they hired someone to perform these tasks in-house.
The same holds true when it comes to resolving workplace disputes. An experienced mediator is far better qualified to resolve conflicts than someone inside the organization. A professional mediator handles disputes like these day in and day out, and their extensive training and experience has shown them the most effective ways to develop peaceable and workable resolutions between parties who have heated conflicts. This alone gives them a higher success rate than a typical manager or HR person.
As we alluded to earlier, another major reason outside mediators are typically more effective than someone inside the company is the fact that they are from the “outside”. These are neutral and impartial professionals who do not usually know the participants in the process and have no vested interest in the outcome. This allows the organization to show more credibly that their workplace dispute resolution process is fair for all employees.