|What is Mediation?
Mediation is an informal process in which a neutral third party – the mediator – assists the opposing parties in reaching a voluntary, negotiated resolution of the complaint. Mediation is different from other forms of dispute resolution in that the parties participate voluntarily, and the mediator has no authority to make a decision. The decision-making power rests in the hands of the parties.
How Does Mediation Work?
Mediation gives the parties the opportunity to discuss the issues raised in the complaint, clear up misunderstandings, find areas of agreement and, ultimately, to incorporate those areas of agreement into a final resolution of the complaint. The mediator focuses the attention of the parties upon their needs and interests rather than on their stated positions. If mediation results in resolution, the agreement is put into writing and becomes binding on both parties.
Advantages of Mediation
Many parties prefer mediation as a dispute resolution process because it is:
Informal. The process is informal and flexible; attorneys are not necessary. There are no formal rules of evidence and no witnesses.
Confidential. Mediation is a confidential process. The mediators will not disclose any information revealed during the mediation. The sessions are not tape-recorded or transcribed. At the conclusion of the mediation, mediators destroy any notes they took during the mediation session.
Quick and inexpensive. When parties want to get on with their business and their lives, mediation may be desirable as a means of producing rapid results. The majority of mediations are completed in one or two sessions.
Moreover, mediation generally produces or promotes:
Greater degree of party control. Parties who negotiate their own settlements have more control over the outcome of their dispute. Parties have an equal say in the process. There is no determination of fault, but rather, the parties reach a mutually agreeable resolution to their conflict.
Preservation of relationships. Many disputes occur in the context of ongoing work relationships. Mediated settlements that address all parties’ interests often preserve working relationships in ways that would not be possible in a win/lose decision-making procedure. Mediation can also make the termination of a work relationship more amicable.
Mutually satisfactory results. Parties are generally more satisfied with solutions that have been mutually agreed upon, as opposed to solutions that are imposed by a third party decision-maker.
Comprehensive and customized agreements. Mediated agreements often help resolve procedural and interpersonal issues that are not necessarily susceptible to legal determination. The parties can tailor their settlement to their particular situation and attend to the fine details of implementation.
A foundation for future problem-solving. After a mediation resolution, if a subsequent dispute occurs, parties are more likely to utilize a cooperative forum of problem-solving to resolve their differences than to pursue an adversarial approach.