Step 1: Understanding Mediation
Mediation is the best way to resolve most stubborn disputes. But it depends on the genuine commitment of the parties in conflict. The parties to your dispute need to understand the mediation process before committing themselves to it. The following sections of this website provide a good introduction to mediation.
Why use mediation? Mediation has the following advantages over other methods of conflict resolution:
- Keeps decision making in the hands of principals—where it belongs. People often confuse mediation with arbitration, but the two are as different as night and day. Arbitration is a judicial process in which partners turn over the decision making to someone else—someone who may have little appreciation for the nuances of their business. Mediation is a negotiation process in which the decision making stays in the hands of the owners.
- Move partners from positions of combat to positions of cooperation. In litigation and arbitration, the goal is to win and, as a result, partners become adversaries. Mediators help partners work together again, even if it’s only to figure out how to separate. Restoring a spirit of cooperation can make all the difference.
- Keeps the focus squarely on the present and future, not mired in the past. Mediation emphasizes what can be changed now to resolve the problem and what can be done in the future to keep it from reoccurring. Not dwelling on who did what to whom makes it easier to sustain relationships.
- Is private and confidential. Public knowledge of a dispute can wreak havoc on a business. Critical relations with creditors, suppliers, customers, and employees can become strained when private conflict becomes public. Mediation gives people the opportunity to work things out in private.
- Keeps negotiations from getting bogged down. Mediation involves direct discussions and shuttle diplomacy. By combining these two approaches, mediators help partners negotiate effectively and solve problems creatively.
- Continues only if everyone agrees that progress is being made. Mediation is a voluntary process and can stop at any time. The initial commitment is typically only a few hours.
- Almost always costs less. Letting conflicts simmer is usually much more expensive and risky than many people realize. Choosing to address conflict is the first step toward saving time and money. When partners get stuck in their own negotiations, skilled mediators can help them reach agreement and get back to work. Compared to arbitration and litigation, mediation is almost always faster and more economical because it does not involve time-consuming depositions and discovery.
- Ends with a written agreement, signed by all parties. Although mediation is an informal process, agreements are always detailed and committed to writing. This ensures that everyone involved has a common understanding of what was decided in mediation. It also means that partners do not need to rely on their memories of how things were resolved. Months and years later, they can refer back to their written agreement for clarification.
Mediation Readiness Checklist
Mediation is not the answer to every disagreement. How suitable it is depends on the nature of the dispute and of the parties to it. BMC has developed simple Mediation Readiness Checklists that can help you gauge the suitability of mediation to your situation.
With a better understanding of how and when mediation works, partners need to assess their particular situation with a professional.