Effective Dispute Resolution Strategy – An Imperative (Part 6 of a 7-part series)

Mediation Culture Implementation Measures for Corporate Organizations

A quick snap back to my earlier posts on this matter.  You may recall my emphasis on the need for a paradigm shift.  I came across the above picture in one of those WhatsApp posts that are described as “viral.”  Talk of perceptions or paradigms.  It was incredible.  This was the best I had seen so far. Even better than the half-full or half empty example and, at least in my own thinking, Covey’s Old Lady/Young Lady.  To be able to embrace and discover both the short term as well as the long-term benefits of mediatory culture, employers must begin to see their employees, not just as profit and cost centres, but truly as persons.  A major paradigm shift!

This culture would not be embraced only because it saves money – and it most definitely does! – but because it enables workers to work in a great environment of love, peace, dignity, and mutual respect.  Thus, it should form the basis of the corporate ethics and guidelines of employees’ conduct.  To borrow the words of Saundry, “…Organizations need to adopt more integrated approaches which locate conflict management as a central element of HR strategy.”  It is crucial for HR, given its significant frontline role of operational managers in constructive conflict management, to facilitate and promote the development of a culture of resolution.

Indeed, as Yetunde Hofmann, managing director of international leadership and change consultancy Synchrony Development Consulting, has said in a recent interview, we should soon see a trend in which top-tier professionals “will abandon employers who fail to change their ways for more ethical rivals when [current Covid-19 related] lockdown measures begin to ease.”  She predicts that, very soon, professionals will navigate towards those organizations that value them as individuals, not just as money-makers.”  An important way that demonstrates this value is the adoption and promotion of the mediation culture and lifestyle.

In my previous posts in this series, I have mentioned some of the initiatives that could help in establishing this culture, as part of key HR Strategy.  They include building into the organization’s vision and core values, inter alia, a commitment to peace, non-violent communication, and a consensual approach to the resolution of conflicts and disputes, both within as well as outside the organization.  Some other initiatives that could be implemented include:

Training and coaching in relevant areas of competence

For example, a recent CIPD survey revealed that “conflict management” and “making difficult conversations” were the two skills most frequently cited by management, which were found hard to enforce.

Conflict Coaching

Conflict Coaching complements Mediation, as it includes giving people the ability and obligation to solve problems without hostility or aggression. For example, managers can be enabled and encouraged to take responsibility for emerging “difficult conversations.”  Conflict Coaching would also help individual managers develop confidence and skills to deal with difficult issues.  Saundry & Wibberley in 2012 pointed to the need to locate mediation skills “closer to the locus of conflict and disputes…[by] placing a greater emphasis on the provision of mediation skills to key actors as opposed to training accredited mediators”.

Again, in 2015, Saundry and Wibberley found that introducing in-house mediators could have a “transformative effect on workplace relationships and critically lay the platform for channels of communication which facilitate the early and informal resolution of workplace conflict.”  The in-house availability of a pool of professionally trained mediators makes the process much more accessible and available in terms of cost and time.

HR Team Conflict Management Expertise

This includes on-site, hand – in – hand assistance, and adequate training – in mediation, conflict coaching and possessing strong theoretical knowledge on the complexities of organizational conflict skills.

Conferences between In-house and Outside Counsel

Lawyers and other professionals representing the organization must necessarily buy-in to the culture.  This can be achieved by regular conferences and reviews between in-house and external counsel, to attain mutuality in views and mindset.  In the case of lawyers, the organization should also give priority to counsels who have training and accreditation in Mediation, Mediation Advocacy and are committed to the notion of a consensual, non-adversarial approach to the resolution of internal and external conflicts.

The chart below succinctly shows the above in a little fuller detail.

Source: Consensus Mediation

To be continued…

In Part 7 of these series, we will consider some further implementation measures as we begin to chart a way forward on this interesting journey.

Meanwhile, as always, I am eager to know what you think.  Please share your comments in the section below and, if you have not done so before now, please subscribe so that you do not miss future posts.


  1. Just a note to say that in this Paradigm shift employees will also be required to give their best to the company and see the company not just as a source of livelihood but as a place they have a vested interest in which they must contribute to its continued existence. So it really is a two way streak.

  2. The relationship between employer and employee is one that should be the same – gearing up towards the same purpose and for a common goal. The pressures and increasingly so that will come upon organisations and individuals may lead to conflict hidden and overt. Our ability to surface and deal with them swiftly and lovingly – yes lovingly – is what will make the difference.

  3. People, Processes, Technology or Regulations; which comes first? This is the recurrent question in a rapidly evolving and disruptive business world. “People”, has to be the answer, because all other components in the value chain depend on people. The board, working in sync with HR, would do well to invest in upskilling and scaling up the relationship and crisis management amongst all people at all levels through preventive as well as mediatory conflict resolution, as a key to unlock the best ROI in human capital, to move the needle at the bottom line.

  4. A great read. Conflict coaching and Mediation ought to be encouraged amongst the HR staff of medium-to large establishments. Covid 19 has brought in its wake several unenvisaged issues which would be best resolved in-house than by protracted litigation.

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