7th February 2024
Hilton London Canary Wharf
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The role of mediation in workplace relationships

Matt Powell-Howard (pictured), NEBOSH’s Head of Product Development, touches on the power of workplace relationships and the role of mediation when conflicts arise. 

Numerous factors contribute to stress, encompassing both workplace-related and external influences. Employers are responsible for addressing those stressors that fall within their control within the workplace. When workplace relationships break down there can be significant human and business costs if you leave them to fester. I only have to reference some 2022/23 statistics to prove that this can be costly; stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 49% of all work-related ill health cases and 54% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health.

When workplace conflicts arise, mediation can be a powerful tool to help get relationships back on track and to re-create a workplace where people feel safe and not in conflict. There are things you can do if a workplace conflict is in the early stages: 

  • Spot it early
    Being present in the workplace and having open and honest conversations with workers, you can learn to spot issues when they start. Don’t ignore things and hope it will resolve. 
  • Give people the time and space to talk. 
    Talk to individuals separately – preferably in a neutral place – to allow them to talk to you openly. Encourage them to focus on the facts, sometimes people’s past experiences cloud their judgement and interpretation of other people’s words and actions. What actually happened? These conversations might give you ideas for easy actions that ease the source of a conflict. 
  • Don’t attempt mediation where you have a close relationship
    If you have a relationship or friendship with one of the people involved, then you are not a suitable mediator. Similarly, if you are involved in a conflict and hold a more senior position, getting a third party is important too – don’t try to negotiate it yourself. Impartiality is absolutely key.
  • Establish ground rules
    If or when you facilitate a discussion between people, establish rules before you begin: confidentiality, respect and not interrupting are all simple rules to follow that allow people to feel they are participating in a fair process. Participants can take notes if there are specific things they would like to respond to, without interrupting the other person. 

Some of the advice in this article is taken from the NEBOSH webinar: Resolving Workplace Conflicts. Watch the webinar for free: https://www.nebosh.org.uk/mediation-webinar/

NEBOSH also offers two qualifications to support wellbeing in the workplace: 

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