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?
The managers job is to mediate disputes so in most situation they should handle it. If in the rare cases it is extremely large and complex or the managers are an integral part in the dispute, than an external one would be beneficial. The cost is substantial for external mediator but if it means you get everything handled and back to work than the cost is covered by the return of sales. A happy workplace is a productive workplace.
Using an external mediator has the advantage of bringing a nonbiased third party in to the situation. Not all managers have the skill or the ability to remain nonjudgmental, especially where the manager is familiar with one or all parties involved. Depending on the severity of the situation, costs should not be the main focus when deciding to use an extrrnal mediator. I have done mediation in the past, and would contract an outside mediator if needed.
I believe depending on the situation that a external mediator truly provides the sense that the mediator is a neutral 3rd party. In my experience the department of human resources would usually be in the role as a internal mediator. Human resources is the one department in most organizations that are pro-organization and bias in that. I think mediation is also usually the final step before litigation, so as a matter of cost a mediator is always cheaper than a lawyer.
I may be stating the obvious. Internal managers are not as likely to be seen as credibly neutral, as compared to an external mediator. Using a manager increases risk of power struggles, buy in, sabotaging, etc.
The external mediator or coach will more likely be seen as credibly neutral and even having potential expertise in dealing with interpersonal conflict. Confidence in the process should be seen as a critical issue, and confidence ought to be improved by bringing in a neutral 3rd party, who can potentially fall back on the utilization of psychological assessments, as yet a further way of neutralizing conflict, and bringing peaceful resolution to workplace disputes.
In the most difficult of situations, your external 3rd party can even offer one-to-one on-going support, such as Executive Coaching. In this process, the on-going support effort aims at ensuring the conflict does not re-emerge.
Really it depends on the circumstances, but in a Union dispute getting the dispute off the floor and out of management has many advantages. Going higher up inside the union and getting into external arbitration will ensure that any agreement is binding on both sides. It can be cheaper that consuming management time. Management simply bringing in an external will not have sufficient credibility with the workforce and is of little benefit unless the people in dispute are consulted on the decision of who to appoint.
What a great question. I have used both and there are pros and cons of both.
Using an external personal can provide the impartial view that you are looking for however most people do not feel comfortable speaking up in front of someone from outside. Using an internal manger can mean that past unresolved issues favouritism and fishbowl view can come to the fore.
What I prefer is both sides trained in mediation so that the workplace feels that they can air any concerns and be heard. If you use the existing manager maybe a trained mediator could be there just to make sure things don't go pear shaped.
Objectivity is key and and internal mediators may have a bias real or perceived and this could interfere with positive outcomes. Also, if there are negative/constructive outcomes that involve discipline, resentments towards internal mediators may have invisible rippling and long lasting counterproductive effects. Resentments and passive-aggressive behavior can be very destructive. For these reasons, external mediators may be warranted.
An independent mediator, if acceptable to all of the parties involved in the dispute, has the power of objectivity, without any internal career-related potential conflicts of interest or any hidden agenda. This objectivity tends to eliminate a prolonged argument, suspicions about motives and, the semblance of favoritism, and usually brings the parties involved to a faster solution -- and this solution, brought to the parties by an impartial mediator, tends to stay in force and to eliminate wondering, re-opening of the topic and the rancor that can come from an internal (managerial) settlement where there may be a lingering suspicion of favoritism. Objectivity is a precious asset in getting to real answers to real problems. - Douglas E. Castle
Having been a Vice President of Human Resources in several industries over many years I was in a position to successfully mediate a number of disputes. I needed to make sure I removed myself from the emotion of the parties however there were times that I was too close to the situation so I removed myself from the process.
Now, being an outside mediator I have the luxury of not getting emotionally involved since I do not work inside the company. I also feel that an outside mediator gains more respect since they are removed from any "politics" within the company, be it between management and the employee, or between the employees.
I would "vote" for the outside mediator.
Yes I think the internal person is definitely biased hence there is conflict of interest and power imbalances especially if he / she is feeling threatened by a subordinate who is already competitive or senior as in duration of work days. It also depends if the majority are already of his / her kind, and has special interest towards the majority. An external mediator may have challenges in obtaining the very piece of true information either from one party or both parties if they one or both are skeptical. Hence, misjudgement can usually occur due to not having sufficient information and proof of dispute. There is a high possibility an internal person of higher rank has better say or louder voice than the subordinate due to his already in position, hence they can say and do whatever they want even it is meant to be falsified. The external mediator must take effort, especially an unbiased effort in proving both the equal opportunity to voice out, so that proper piece of true information can be obtained so that proper judgement can be given out in a way both parties instinctively feels and believes within inner self that they deserve it rightfully although they put up a show outside during the grievances procedure.
Joanne, You ask a great question.
I have read the responses to date, Some of them I would agree with.
There are up and down sides to this question.
I have on a number of times acted as an internal mediator.
But not for my department.
The company decided that if something (anything) that requires mediation, should where possible handled internally. But not by the manager who manages the department.
The main reasons for this are.
Internal mediators understand the working of the company.
They understand the companies limitations, and general policies.
A department manager from a different but similar department, can still act independently and unbiased.
They can asset in reaching an agreement and a action plan.
They are also in a position to monitor the outcome, to make sure that what has been agreed to happens.
Also this provides a second step if required of using an external mediator if required.
From my experience, I have been able to resolve 100% each dispute to the satisfaction of both parties, providing with a win-win outcome in each case.
The points in engaging and external mediator are.
They may not know the working of the company. or it's limitations.
They may not be able to supervise the outcomes.
They end up as the last resort, If this breaks down, you have no where else to go. except to go legal.
It's more expensive.
I've been involved in both situations.
A professional external mediator is always interesting because you have to explain the whole situation to them and although they appear to be unbiased, they quickly can become biased by some choice words by certain superiors in the company.
An internal manager already has their biases on the manner because either they were there or they heard about what happened through whatever sources.
I am worried about conflicts of interest when using an internal person, but I am also worried about conflicts of interest when using an external mediator. e.g. who brought in the mediator? who is paying the mediator? What was the mediator told before coming into mediate?
I don't think it is an easy answer and I think it depends on the situation on whether or not you should bring in an external professional or using someone internally.
I have thought about this a great deal. It is really difficult to bring in an "unbiased" opinion into work matters or any relationship matters. Sometimes the only move is to bring in a supervisor or a third party. I think if matters can be dealt with internally that is usually better, but I don't want to overgeneralize, some workplace disputes need an external mediator for legal reasons.
I don't think one person can ever fully comprehend the intricacies of the situation and make a judgement call. I think decisions have to be made as a team.
Usually an odd number of people such as 5 is a good way of deciding. But sometimes the decision doesn't go the way you want it to and that can cause some friction in your business because people remember how you voted on certain matters.
Ultimately it is up to the person in power that makes the decisions. That is when I start to really worry.
Check out the bylaws if they are open to the public and see if there is certain protocol for matters that you are dealing with.
Without much more insight to the particulars. I can only offer advice based upon myoown experience. That said. I would day that if you feel your internal mediator is objective and has the organizations mission and best interests held above politics and personal agenda, use your internal person. However, my experience has shown that adding a subsequent consultation is a wise move. Combining and comparing tsuggestions and insights will reveal a better long resolution. This not a middle road.approach but rather a comptrhensive choice bound to either dispute or confirm your internal decision. Any worthy internal mediator would welcome this approach rather than be threatened by this..)
(I obviously should not attempt to use my cell to type a detailed reply)lol
Justice must not only be done, it must also APPEAR to be done. Appearance, and by extension, perception is reality. An external mediator has no ties that bind, no ax to grind, no hidden agenda. The outcome, even if unfavorable to one party, will be accepted as unbiased.
While you did not expound on the particular types of the workplace disputes, the vast majority of workplace disputes arise due to conflicts dealing with styles or types of personalities and how that affects another’s personal work ethics or ability to get a particular job accomplished. Using an internal mediator has its merits as that person most likely is well versed in company policies and understands what the real reason the dispute has come to light. First and foremost, the company has its own best interests to look after. Squabbles between employees cost the company production dollars at any level and the internal mediator should be well aware of that end goal when mediating the dispute. Using an outside mediator also has merits from the point of neutrality but they generally are not familiar with internal rules, regulations and formats of the company they have been called in to mediate for. Over the years, I have used both internal and external mediators and in my opinion, the issues were resolved faster and with better conclusion by using an internal mediator. The internal mediator also has the opportunity to document and do follow up reviews that help to prevent that particular type of dispute in the future by initiating new or changing existing polices.
External will cost you money unless they are promoting their services in which case you might get it for free.Internal is always an option unless the management has already been doing MBW.Management by walking around and if not use them.There is usually a learning experiencing for the existing People that is nice to get for free.
The ability to mediate conflicts is a key competence of a manager. If the manager does not have the maturity required to conduct a conflict situation, marry the area of Human Resources to provide the necessary support to the manager. Levels and there are situations where domestic remedies does not have the autonomy to conduct these situations, in this case the external mediator can facilitate yet. But remember that whoever the mediator, 90% of the solution is the responsibility of those involved, and in these cases it is also necessary to have the maturity to bring up these issues. Programs internal coaching, assertive reviews, and transparency in communication, and help to reduce this problem internally. The mediator is an extreme and often palliative proposal.
The biggest problem with internal personnel being used for conflict resolution is the appearance of a conflict of interest, as well as the possibility of being pressured to find in favor of the company at all costs.
An externally sourced mediator can have a similar problem, but is less likely, because they are hired to resolve the conflict without attachment to either side.
Using a truly and unquestioningly neutral party for conflict resolution can go a long way to maintaining morale where conflicts arise.
It is far more effective to use an external mediator.
They come in with no preconceived opinions; therefore more open overall with advanced listening and problem solving skills.
An inside manager may not be a good choice b/c of possibly having strong opinions and perhaps even favoritism.
Better to go outside and avoid any/all pitfalls.
Make sure you check references, licensing and testimonials.
If the issue is large and has been going on for a while, then an external mediator is necessary if one really wants to solve the problem. If the issue has just come up and there is an internal mediator that will not be biased one way or another, then it may work to have an internal mediator. Both parties need to feel the internal mediator is neutral.