How do you compare using a professional external mediator rather than an internal manager to mediate workplace disputes?
Have you used either or both and how do you think they compare?
Are you worried about conflicts of interest and power imbalances when using an internal person?
Dose the cost outweigh the benefit of using an external professional?
Have you never thought of it?
HI Joanne...I've read all of the responses and obviously, there is some great feedback here. Most companies are starting to realize the importance of preparing their managers in several areas like compliance and employee situations. Training should be a priority in these areas, and deciding as a team, when an outside mediator will be more effective than working things out internally. Either way, document everything that is said in every conversation, whether internally or externally and be sure all parties sign those forms so you have documentation that you, as a company, have done everything possible to address the employee's issue. It's protection for you and your company, and keeps all parties aware and on the same path. Good luck!
It doesn't matter whether or not an internal person is unbiased or not, the perception is always there that they have some sort of interest or ax to grind. If you can get people to overlook that perception, then an internal person can be effective.
I am not in favor of using an internal manager for a workplace dispute. It is almost impossible to ensure that the individuals involved will feel comfortable and will feel that the process has been fair and impartial. There is no way to know this and you jeopardize the process. If the individuals do not feel comfortable being completely open and honest, the mediation is likely to fail. The cost of an external mediator will always pay for itself!
External Professional undoubtedly.
Impartiality, objectivity and outsider advantage. However , track record of the professional has to be scrutinized. I have come across incompetent mediators.
Simply put, internal managers could be seen by those not of management to be biased long before the conversation even begins. External mediator is not seen in that light in the beginning but if they tend to lean more toward one side or the other during conversations, they too could easily become tainted. For me, in that situation as coming in as an external professional, I ask for information from both sides separate of each other before sitting down. This gives me a brief overview of where I could take these talks for a quick and smooth conclusion. Also, I remind myself that few will ever tell a story from the other side so one need to take this to count. I love doing this task because it allows others to see that even though you disagree, you do not have to be enemies.
I would rather work with an external one, since he has no place or invested interests or fears in the system he is collaborating with the mediation. Anyway his or her advises or sayings may be in conflict with existing authority or balance of power, and, in that case, it all depends on the internal authority openness to listen or reject them.
Related to the cost, what is in stake or blocked (now and the real impact in time) versus cost of mediation. I would consider too the learning of the team and the organization in solving problems, developing that as an internal competency and sum that benefit to the equation.
I’m going to show my bias here, but my belief is that an external mediator is a better bet because:
1. Less chance of perceived favoritism
a. With an internal mediator the perception may be that “management sticks together”
2. Less chance of actual favoritism
a. Sometimes “management sticks together”
3. If one party does not like the decision(s), the mediator is not available as a target
a. Kind of like having the doctor take the car keys from your elderly dad, not you mom, she still has to live with him the doctor doesn’t
4. An internal mediator may allow their own future plans within the organization to impact their decision making process
Just some thoughts.
I see a lot of experience behind these great responses. I agree that the main issue is assuring a lack of bias. It can appear whether it is internal or external.
If we start with this premise, that confidence in the impartiality of the process and mediator is the most important issue that must be overcome, we can design that in to the process. However, how often is this question even asked, and addressed?
If it isn't, the mediation could be ineffective and the negative outcome blamed on the parties, when the real reason is that there was insufficient trust in the mediation process for it to work.
This a structure that can work:
1st- the selection of the mediator or facilitator must be done with both parties having a say in the selection.
2nd- Agree that the mediation is not binding
3rd - Make sure the mediator has a high stake in the outcome, as well as the two parties. This can be accomplished when all three agree: 1) that the ground rules can assure success if followed, 2) that each party sincerely wants to do the deal and desires a fair outcome, 3) each party helps shape the process, 4) all agree that the mediator's job is to: assure impartiality, keep the parties engaged productively, and employ processes that build rather than diminish trust. and 5) the mediator's compensation depends upon the outcome. He will get a base compensation, but he will not get bonuses if either party quits the mediation, or if they cannot arrrrive at the mutually agreed upon outcome.
This structure can ensure that all parties put in the effort nesessary for success to be reachable.
In a high stakes mediation, an external mediator would be preferred as an internal mediator would not be subject to the same stakes, (bonuses, reputation) as an external one would be.
In an internal situation, if the mediator was dependent upon his reputation for success within the organization, the model could work.
This is really a great thought.
I recommend a professional external mediator or probe to resolve the workplace disputes. This including sexual harassment at workplace instead of internal grievances redress system. This will make the action impartial.
Internal managers have a huge disadvantage simply because their paychecks are signed by the same person(s) who signs employees paychecks. In short, many of these managers are sometimes limited in the quality of service they render because of this close association with leadership/management. In most cases it is always beneficial to bring in an outsider. Generally, an outsider does not have a dog in the fight and can therefore offer a more pure perspective because of their spatial relationship.
Bringing in a private mediator has distinct advantages.
1) The parties likely feel HR is biased in many situations, that a manager may be biased, either to a person or process. They wouldn't feel that way of a private mediator. More trust can be built.
2) A private mediator is a specialist meaning their width and depth of skills will aid in more complex disputes.
3) A private mediator is not distracted by other company duties that day. They are fully invested in the process.