The accidental mediator
Natasha and Luke have never got along well. Now Natasha has complained to her manager, Tina.
Tina suggests setting up a meeting between Natasha and Luke. During this meeting, Tina will be taking on a mediation role. There are five steps we’d advise her to take. You can use the same strategies to resolve minor conflict in your workplace.
1. Be clear about your role
A mediator is an impartial third party. Tina should not take sides or offer advice. She needs to guide the process, not tell Natasha and Luke what to do.
2. Set ground rules
Ground rules define how people are expected to behave during the meeting. Tina needs to explain the behaviours she expects from Luke and Natasha. For example, listening respectfully and resisting the temptation to interrupt.
3. Define the issue
Problems can’t be solved until they are clearly defined. This means Tina needs to start the mediation by helping Luke and Natasha agree on what’s wrong. She can use one of the following questions to do this:
- What’s the core problem we need to solve today?
- What, exactly, is the main issue we need to discuss?
4. Focus on working together
At present, Natasha and Luke are working against each other. Tina’s challenge is to get them working together. A powerful way to do this is to ask them to ‘gang up’ on the problem. Tina should sit Natasha and Luke side by side, with a sheet of paper between them. Their ‘problem’ should then be written on the paper. This encourages Luke and Natasha to work as team in solving the problem.
5. Guide the problem-solving process
It’s important to get Luke and Natasha tackling their problem collaboratively. Tina can use the following questions to prompt collaborative problem solving:
- What solutions do you see?
- How can we sort this out?
- What options do we have?
Once a list of options has been created, Tina should help Tina and Luke create an action plan. Then they should set a time to report back on the success of their plan.
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