Ask The Mediator with David Liddle
An HR professional asks the mediator...
I facilitated a mediation this week. It was a difficult one but we got to problem solving and an agreement. However, the next day one of the parties (the manager) said she can't live with the agreement in practice and said that she only agreed to it because she was concerned that her management practices were under question. We constantly checked back with the parties during the mediation to ensure that the agreed practices they put forward were achievable and that they would be comfortable with them going forward -both parties were adamant that they were. The manager is now saying that she can't keep to the agreement nor work with the other party because he is still too difficult to deal with.
Please can you provide some advice on how we can move it forward?
David Liddle, President of the Professional Mediators' Association, answers...
I am guessing that the manager’s learning style is ‘reflector’ and if so, this is not entirely uncommon. One of the challenges of TCM’s FAIR model is that ‘reflectors’ can struggle a bit. However, with a bit of sensitive support and coaching post mediation, they can benefit as much as anyone else.
At this stage it may be valuable to have a further, confidential, discussion with the manager. It would seem that something changed after mediation and it would be useful to know what that thing was – was it internal (i.e. in her head) or were there external influences (friends, family colleagues, unions etc.)?
In your discussions, it may be worth applying Appreciative Inquiry techniques by encouraging the manager to focus on the positives achieved to date, rather than what can’t be done. Remind the manager that a lot of great work was done through mediation and then ask questions to find out if this is a crisis of confidence or a real concern. It is easy to be negative. It is a lot harder to be positive. As the mediator, I would urge the manager to focus on what they do need rather than what they don’t want.
It may be that a further round table conversation could be useful to explore the blocks and barriers with both parties. One final point – one to one coaching could be helpful for the manager. I am using coaching to augment mediation more and more in my work so if you have a coach in the business who could offer a couple of sessions, that could be very helpful.
It’s a tough one but I am sure it will be resolved!
President of the Professionals Mediators’ Association
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