The Bible says “Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God.” I would like to start a series on the concept of dispute resolution known as mediation.
Mediation is a tool that is used to resolve diverse disputes from interpersonal, organisational and even marital. There is no limit to the type of dispute that mediation can be applied to.
The basic rules of mediation are the same and that is, finding a win-win solution for the disputants and trying to find a common workable ground for the disputants.
The Kenyan dispute resolution system has largely been an adversarial one, whereby one party wins and the other loses or at times, both parties lose.
The adversarial system is very much goal-oriented and the core issue in such a system is achievement of goals rather than preservation of a relationship.
Many times after an adversarial process, parties are not able to maintain a healthy relationship. Mediation on the other hand, focuses on preservation of a relationship whereby parties are encouraged to compromise a few goals for the sake of preserving a relationship.
The Kenyan Judicial system has now embraced mediation as a dispute resolution tool for deserving cases whereby court appointed mediators come into the conflict and help parties reach a settlement.
Mediation has many advantages over the adversarial process the chief being its focus on a win- win solution. It is cheaper than litigation and faster.
Depending on the nature of conflict it takes a few days to resolve a conflict through mediation while litigation may take years. It is not technical unlike arbitration and litigation…simply put there is not much legal jargon and rules to follow in a mediation process.
When it comes to managing work place conflict, I encourage organisations to use mediation to prevent and handle any disputes between staff and employers. Every organisation should have a conflict resolution policy.
According to experts unresolved workplace conflict accounts for a large percentage of reducible costs. Lack of proper conflict resolution reduces morale of staff hence reducing performance.
It also creates the risk of employee sabotage by disgruntled staff. It leads to high staff turnover, replacement costs and a tarnished image for the organisation.
I know of several companies that have a bad public image due to how they handle employees. It increases the risk of litigation through labour cases and can even lead to the organisation crumbling due to strikes and sabotage by workers.
Yet all these can be avoided if you have a good conflict resolution policy where mediation is used to handle staff grievances. I have handled several labour matters on behalf of employees and where high awards have been made.
The cost of bearing such an award has been on the organisation, yet all these could have been avoided if the organisation had used mediation. Remember that conflict is costly and should be well managed if not prevented.