Mediation can be defined as a process whereby a neutral facilitator aids
parties in reaching a mutually agreeable resolution of their dispute. It is
a process whereby the parties rather than going back and forth by
telephone, letters, or in front of a judge, set aside one or more days to try
to hammer out their differences and reach a compromise so that both
sides are happy. For a mediation to be successful, both sides have to be
willing to actively and earnestly participate in the process.
Research technicians Ellis and Jessica are on the same grade. Jessica
has been in her post for two years, has two children and a degree.
Ellis is close to retirement and has worked his way up after gaining an
Jessica spends a lot of time with the students, which means Ellis has to
pick up more of the experimental work.
Their manager John, a principal investigator, has not had a discussion
with them regarding their work to see if there are any issues, but sees a
lack of teamwork between Jessica and Ellis.
Ellis is thoroughly fed up of ‘covering’ for Jessica. He feels Jessica
always taking time off work to look after her children or away from
the lab gossiping with students.
• Jessica feels Ellis is just ‘working his ticket’. She doesn’t like his
language (calling her ‘love’ all the time) and thinks he’s far too familiar
and gets too close to her than she’s comfortable with.
•Ellis overhears some gossip in the tea room regarding
the quality of his work and guesses it was started by
Jessica. What little trust there was between them has now
been lost. To make matters worse, Jessica and Ellis were
supposed to set up an experiment for a senior academic
this wasn’t done and the experiment couldn’t go ahead.
•The principal investigator calls them both into his office after the senior
academic put in a complaint. John tells them that this was the last straw
(following some similar incidents over the previous months) and strongly
• Both Ellis and Jessica wanted to avoid more formal procedures and
agreed to give it a go. Ellis and Jessica attended their individual sessions
with the mediators, and at the end of these sessions the mediators
suggested a joint meeting might be appropriate.
• They agreed that they would be prepared to try a joint meeting although
Ellis and Jessica were still a little concerned that what was said would
get back to John. After hearing assurances from the mediators that
wouldn’t happen and anything said in the meeting would be treated in the
strictest confidence, they felt happier to try the next step.
• An incident had just occurred and people are too
• One party is using mediation to escalate the dispute
• One party seems incapable of listening
• One party might be better off using the courts
• The issue deserves public attention.
• Mediator opening statement
• Party opening statements
• Use the mediator as a messenger
The facilitative mediator “asks questions
Validates and normalizes parties’ points of view
Assists the parties in finding and analyzing options for resolution
Mediator does not offer advice, recommendations or opinions
Often used when money is an issue in the dispute.
Offer an opinion of the merits of the case
Evaluation can either apply to the legal issues or factual issues, be
they financial, engineering related or otherwise”
This style may also point out strengths and/or weaknesses of the
positions proposed by each side of the dispute.
One of the newer styles of mediation
Keeps the structure of the facilitative style
Seeks to empower each of the parties and encourage each party to
recognize the other party’s point of view.
Focuses a great deal on interaction and communication between the
This style of mediation pre-supposes that people become caught in the
conflict cycle because they see themselves as being bound to it.
Mediator using this style gets the parties to view the conflict from a
distance, through story telling
Linden states that this style works well when the disputants have an
on-going relationship past the mediation.
The mediators explained the ground rules to Jessica and Ellis for the joint session,
which included reaffirming that they would be get:
•Equal time with no interruptions while they were speaking
•A chance to hear from the other person’s point of view
•Reassurance that any notes taken during the session would be destroyed after the
session and that a written agreement would be produced if requested by both parties at
•Reaffirmation of the confidentiality of mediation
During the joint session Ellis and Jessica had an equal opportunity to explain their
concerns and to raise issues they felt were causing them anxiety. The meeting was quite
intense at first but with the mediator’s direction both Ellis and Jessica began to relax
and openly discuss their difficulties, making suggestions on how they could work
together in the future.
Jessica and Ellis decided that it would help to have a written record of what was
suggested. They also thought it would be useful to keep a copy of their agreement for
The ‘agreement/ behaviors contract’ is voluntary but it helps to reinforce what
has been agreed. Ellis and Jessica agreed to:
• Use less familiarity when speaking to one another and be aware of personal
• Have more understanding of flexibility around childcare situations at short
• Have better communication and raise concerns directly with the other person,
and have a ‘no gossip’ rule
• Respect each others skills and experience
• Improve understanding about sharing the setting up of experiments
Jessica and Ellis also agreed to contact the mediators if anything went wrong
in the future. The mediators agreed to be available if needed and to follow up
the joint meeting after a couple of months to see how things were progressing.