UK: Mediating The Organisational Maze

"Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom...the power to choose, to respond, to change." Stephen Covey

Change is a fact of life. Many find it stimulating, refreshing and constructive, but there can be times when change is challenging, tiring and not to our liking. The fourth event in CEDR's Mediation Matters focused on how mediation can be used as a tool to improve organisational life and how mediation can help to embed a positive work culture within an organisation. Chaired by CEDR Director and Mediator Fiona Colquhoun, the group of 30 HR Directors, Managers and Lawyers, heard from panellists including Sejal Raja, Partner and Head of Employment at RadcliffesLeBrasseur; Derryth Wright, CEDR Mediator and Health & Safety and Wellbeing Manager at Norfolk County Council; Patrick Gottry, CEDR Mediator and Principal, Employee Relations at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Susanne Schuler, CEDR Director of Training and Consultancy.

Corporate Warzones

Conflict is an everyday part of work and life in all organisations. Broadly conflict is described as disagreements, difference, disputes, or difficulty between people whether it is collective or group or individual. People invariably I see the same issue very differently, which can be rewarding and fun, but it can also be stressful and the cause of discontent. While the benefits of constructive conflict can sometimes drive innovation, new ideas, developments and more optimum outcomes, if conflict is not anticipated and managed appropriately, hostilities can ensue, vendettas may be waged and litigation or legal warfare commenced.

Managing conflict or resolving disputes?

The panellists discussed the trend away from reactive approaches to dispute management towards more proactive approaches to conflict management. Often workplace conflicts start small. If conflict is left unchecked it can become negative very quickly and individual motivation, engagement, efficiency and performance all deteriorate. As someone commented to the authors of this article recently, "I'm glad you asked when it started, as 7 years ago I was promised..."

However, not all workplace conflict, such as friction between colleagues, leads to full-blown disputes about legal rights, typically channelled through rights-based grievance procedures. The reality is that many conflicts and differences are forgotten about, ignored and accommodated in the everyday task of keeping up with organisational priorities, changing agendas, workplace politics, and ways of working. Early intervention is key as many situations need proactive management of the tension or conflict situation before it emerges into a dispute. While the intervention required can vary depending on the specific situation, the use of mediation skills to hold "facilitated difficult conversations" or similar, is a critical tool to assist individuals and organisations create solutions to problems through a supportive framework.

Frameworks: Adapting the mediation process

Due to the flexibility of the mediation, the process can be adapted depending on the specific situation, issues and considerations that are relevant. There are a variety of questions that might be asked to help to determine a course of action: We list some of them. What is the type of dispute? How large is the aggrieved or claimant group? Who is or needs to be involved? What processes can or should be used in conjunction with the mediation (e.g. coaching)? What should the intervention be called (e.g. facilitated conversation or mediation?)? How should the intervention be conducted? Where should the mediation take place? When should the mediation take place? What materials are required before the meeting? What ground-rules are required? How does engagement really work and an outcome be sustainable? What does the organisation need to learn from this experience? What information is captured and how is it stored?

One of the strengths of workplace and employment mediation, as has been considered by previous Mediation Matters articles, is the level of input and control, parties have over the process and final decision. It is not a judgement or determination imposed on anyone. Commissioners of the mediation also need to consider is whether the appointment of an internal or an external mediator is more appropriate depending on the specific situation and context.

Benefits of a mediation scheme

While there is not a one-size-fits all approach when introducing mediation into an organisation, there are some key considerations. The first is whether to have a mediation scheme and if so, is it an internal, external or blended model. One approach is to introduce an internal mediation scheme, where staff are trained to act as mediators and lead awareness activities on an ad hoc or full-time basis. The second approach is to have an externally run and administered scheme, run by an organisation such as CEDR, where disputes are referred to it. The third and arguably the best approach is to have a number of internally trained mediators to act on either an ad hoc or full-time basis, who are in turn supported and provided with continuous professional development by a mediation organisation. In such instances, the mediation organisation would also provide a selected panel of 'external' mediators to act in disputes when there are concerns about experience, credentials, neutrality and confidentiality, typical in many employment mediation cases.

As the event captured, there are a number of benefits of proactive conflict management and mediation schemes including:


  • Long-term savings on in time and money litigations, disputes and grievances, etc.
  • Employee retention and well-being leading to less recruitment costs, less sickness absence and increase in productivity.
  • Reinvestment of saved money.
  • HR costs distracted from core business can be reinvested in their strategic role.


  • Attracts high-quality staff to the company.
  • Better use of donation or taxpayer money.
  • Influences Company Culture.
  • Clients benefit: Brand identity, perception, keep clients (continuity & turnover).

Employee well-being:

  • Resolves conflicts early.
  • Reduces stress, mental strain and difficulties for employees.
  • Motivates and engages employees in collaborative working
  • Has clear structure of conflict resolution process, fair for all and transparent.
  • Offers an open environment to air concerns, or for whistleblowing.
  • Allows for restoration relationships quickly, to avoid resentment from spiralling and people getting entrenched.
  • Improves community feeling based on values of respect, dialogue and support.
  • Provides a process giving equal power and responsibility to those involved.

Case Study: Norfolk County Council


Norfolk County Council wanted to embed mediation as part of the Council's continuous improvement in the delivery of its services. With a headcount of 14,000 and a budget in excess of £1 billion, in 2013 the Council approached CEDR to assist them to introduce a mediation scheme.


CEDR worked with the Council's in-house Organisational Development professionals, to design and deliver a series of workplace mediation skills training sessions and consultancy advice with regard to integrating mediation into the culture of their organisation. Key to this was the development of the business case for mediation which was agreed at the top level of the organisation.


Pioneered by the Council's Well-Being and HR Team, mediation had been integrated into organisational policies and procedures assisting in significantly reducing the number of grievances.

Case Study: Bank


The cost of conflict for a typical workplace dispute was estimated at being €600,000 in legal fees, an exit package being the equivalent of 3 years of salary and 1000 hours of management time.


In coordination with the Bank's Employee Relations and Talent Development teams, CEDR consultants designed a multi-staged training programme with the objective of enabling employees and managers to hold Courageous Conversations in order to prevent, manage and resolve conflict when it occurred.


The training has been running since 2009 and is a mandatory training course within the Bank. To-date about 34 sessions have been delivered in addition to a number of HR Business Partners and Specialists undertaking CEDR's full mediator skills training course. The practice of mediation has also been utilised to manage and resolve conflict and has also been integrated into a selection of Bank policies.

Specific challenges for the mediator when mediating in the workplace

In workplace and employment disputes there are often various dynamics that the mediator needs to be aware of. Some of the main challenges include the perception of the mediation process and the impartiality of the mediator and confidentiality – what is shared with the organisation and what is not.

Impartiality and perception of the mediator and mediation process

Depending on the approach used for a mediation scheme, there may be concerns as to the impartiality of the mediator. Typically an 'internal' mediator is an employee of the organisation and may be known, have a working relationship with them, be on the company's payroll and be part of the company's hierarchy. All these aspects will not only influence the way he or she is perceived, but also the mediator's own perception of the conflicts. Having an existing history with the employees and the organisation, the mediator will need to always be alert to their own bias and its implications, and behave in a way that will safeguard this.

Similarly, an external mediator may sometimes be perceived as an "agent" of the company by its employees and be considered biased as he or she is mandated and paid by the organisation. However, this is usually countered by an external mediator's experience and credentials. Whether or not an mediator is internal or external he or she must always work to show professionalism, neutrality and its independence. It is essential that the mediator establishes confidence, trust and reassurance early on, and behaves in an entirely impartial manner.

Considerations on Confidentiality

For both internal and external mediators, confidentiality is also an important challenge when mediating in the workplace. Participants in mediation will often seek reassurance on this matter. The fact that the mediation takes place will sometimes need to be confidential, meaning there will have to be a dedicated space, preferably outside of the usual working environment. There also needs to be clarity and agreement on who in the organisation knows about the mediation taking place and its potential outputs. Often the terms of a 'settlement agreement' or an agreed resolution such as a change of working practices or new ways of working together i.e. an agreed modus operandi need to be communicated to others. In some cases there are follow up actions post mediation, which someone from the organisation needs to monitor or be involved with. New issues may emerge so mediators need to be able to think about confidentiality pragmatically, but always ask the participants if they have permission to disclose information.

Next steps for mediation in organisations

In its 28 year history, CEDR's mediators have always worked in organisations and dealt with employment and workplace disputes. CEDR has also always trained mediators from employment and workplace backgrounds. Today the spectrum of cases has become even more challenging and diverse. Organisations have always had conflict and always will, but in the last decade as businesses have become more aware of the mediation process, they have used it effectively to enhance management capabilities and to make the workplace far more collaborative. Most importantly though tremendous costs have been saved, relationships repaired, and those organisations which started to mediate years ago with perhaps 2 or 3 cases a year have developed a constructive way of doing business. These organisations have developed mediation with not only their employees, but other stakeholders as well including clients and suppliers. We can all safely say that mediation is here to stay.

30 Jan 2018

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)
Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions