We often receive enquiries regarding team or group conflicts and are asked whether we can mediate such situations.
As with pretty much any dispute, the answer is a resounding “absolutely - yes”!
Whilst the principles are the same, the methodology is slightly different - let me explain why…
Every scenario is unique and without wanting to push our brand too much in your face, each different situation merits a pragmatic approach.
A mediation between three people is different to one involving a Trade Union and managers.
Five people who don’t like their manager is different to five people who just don’t get along with each other.
Is it really a group / team mediation?
When multiple people have raised concerns, we need to dig deep and get to the heart of the matter to determine where the issues really lie.
Often things have been left to fester and although several people are aggrieved, some are what I would class as “followers” - these are the employees who don’t have a major issue but they’ve chosen to take a ‘side’.
These factions are unfortunately common when issues haven’t been nipped in the bud and it often leads to people describing the culture in an organisation as ‘toxic’.
The majority of the time when clients call us about a group / team situation, our conversation explores who the real issues are between and nine times out of ten they are already well aware.
I’m a rubbish businessman for many reasons (see this blog) and one of them is talking clients out of going to the expense of a mediation between, say seven people, when what’s really needed is a mediation between two - possibly followed up with a facilitated conversation involving the wider team.
However, team / group meditation is sometimes necessary, so how do we do it?
What we don’t do is throw everyone into a room to see who can shout and scream the loudest!
In a group or team mediation, the mediator will start and finish the process exactly the same as in a two-party mediation - it’s the middle part that’s the unknown, which is where the skills and judgement of the mediator really kick in.
There are often many dynamics and different relationships which need addressing in the right way with proper conversations to be had. A number of mini mediations then take place in order to ensure that when everybody gets together, they’re in the best position to discuss, debate and formulate that so-important agreement about how they will work going forward.
I once did a 22-person mediation where there were many of these mini-mediations. It was a very difficult and testing few days but 23 people (including me) having a positive and really progressive session about how they are all going to work together in future was one of the best feelings I’ve had in my career, especially seeing all the hugging and hearing all the genuine apologies.
The best feeling in any group mediation? It’s when you leave to go home, so you say your goodbyes to everyone and they are still carrying on with their catch-up conversations about friends, relatives, politics or whatever - nothing to do with work or the problems they were obsessed and stressed out with at the start!
Some of them won’t have spoken like this to each other for months, if not years.