Early Dispute Resolution (edr)

Assisting staff and students in anticipating, avoiding, preventing, and resolving disputes.

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Most people do not want to live their lives in dispute. If this arises, generally they want to reach an agreement on the dispute and get on with their work or study. At the same time, it is vital to them that they are heard and given the opportunity to put their point across. If in a dispute, animosity or suspicion arises and each side blames the other, then lines of communication close and there is no longer the opportunity for creative and open negotiations.

Mediation offers the option of a flexible approach to resolve such conflicts. It gives an opportunity to discuss the issues with an impartial third party (the Mediator) and it is a voluntary, confidential and independent process. It is not a soft option, nor a compromise by any one person. It involves total commitment by those involved, difficult questions being asked and aired and a lot of hard thinking on positive options.

What is mediation?

The essentials of mediation are:

  • privacy and voluntary nature of assisted negotiation
  • informality
  • flexibility
  • opportunity for people to consider future as well as past events and present circumstances
  • opportunity for confidential and without prejudice discussion
  • opportunity for creative solutions, none of which are binding until agreement is reached
  • It is a proven method of resolving disputes, saving on time and cost. More importantly perhaps, it enables genuine resolution to be achieved, rather than compromise or a 50/50.

What does the Mediator do?

The Mediator’s role is to be completely independent of the issues within the dispute. They will work with those in dispute and assist them to find a solution. The Mediator is there to bridge the communication gap, help people to explore options and to test out suggested solutions. This enables the individuals to focus on their real interests and issues. A Mediator’s role is not judge or to decide who is right and who is wrong. Instead they will be an independent voice of reason as both people consider options for resolving their issues.

The Mediator:

  • is neutral and has no vested interest in the outcome
  • will not impose a settlement or pass judgement
  • will identify common ground and help both people build on points as they come to agreement.

What does the Early Dispute Resolution team offer?

  • Mediation between two or more individuals involved in a dispute.
  • Developments days and group mediation for teams who are not working well together.
  • Individual support for members of staff who are having difficulties with someone they work with regularly.
  • Individual support to managers of staff who are involved in a dispute.

What are the benefits of mediation?

  • Resolution can be achieved in days or weeks rather than months or years.
  • Mediation can identify the core issues, which created the dispute in the first place.
  • Options can be explored and discussed.
  • It offers an opportunity of feeling a sense of satisfaction in achieving workable outcomes.
  • It keeps the focus on the future relationship rather than dwelling on the negativity of the past.

When can it be used?

Mediation is an option for use at any time when both people genuinely want to see the end to a dispute or to ineffective negotiation.

It is best suited when:

  • a negotiated settlement is desired
  • tensions and emotions are impeding communication
  • time and/or costs are a concern
  • the persons in dispute want or need to maintain or rebuild a working relationship
  • those in dispute wish to keep the detail confidential

Not everyone will immediately agree to participate in mediation. In some circumstances more information on the process itself is needed or assessment of whether it is appropriate for a particular circumstance. It may not be appropriate where, for instance, one person does not have an interest in settlement or wishes to use a formal process to discourage similar actions.

The mediation method

The whole basis of mediation is that it is a voluntary process (and one shown to work in 80% of cases). The Mediator has to be agreed on by those participating, as being independent and impartial. A confidentiality agreement is also signed by the participants, to enable open and frank disclosure of information to take place.

Before a mediation takes place, background information is shared with the Mediator. The Mediator meets individually with each person to explore the issues relating to the dispute, the issues around it and any worries or concerns. Often this involves careful questioning on difficult and sensitive matters.

Everything disclosed these meetings is confidential. The Mediator would seek permission as to what may be disclosed to the other person. Assistance is also given by the Mediator in identifying ways to move forward. Once issues are fully explored in this way the role of the Mediator is to assist each person in assessing options available, formulate proposals, examine alternatives and overcome deadlocks. This may be done in joint meetings with each person or a combination of joint and separate meetings.

The length of a mediation meeting may typically be 3-4 hours but the timeframe for it will have been agreed beforehand.

When both people have agreed to solutions through this kind of negotiation, a resolution agreement is normally drawn up by the mediators.

Summary of the benefits

In addition to those outlined above mediation offers a quicker, more informal process than formal investigation (grievance/complaint). It helps people come together in face-to-face meetings to share information and to discuss differences. It assists in clarifying misunderstandings and incorrect perceptions and assumptions. It enables each person to make their own suggestions about how the problems or difficulties can be resolved and to be involved in the process of deciding on resolutions.

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