Can a confrontational work relationship be saved? The answer is “YES! With Mediation.”

George is thrilled with his new sales manager position! He accepted the position with a fast growing national firm to handle a 3 state region. George was a successful sales person with 15+ years’ experience in the industry and has leadership abilities. The office is centrally located and all of the sales folks may be in the office each day with a 30-55 minute commute, one way.

“I know I am ready to lead this team of 8 to great success! I will get them back in the office on a regular basis and we will rock the firm in 2016!! They can work their client appointments around time in the office. This will be great!!”

Molly is a seasoned sales leader consistently meeting her targets and delighting her clients day after day. Working from her virtual office, she maximizes her results using effective time management, prepares all of her sales reports at the end of her work day and hits the ground running each morning with her list of actions.

After hearing about her new manager, Molly thinks, “Here we go—another new sales manager. I wonder what we are going to experience with George leading the team. When he reviews my history, he will be pleased with my steady performance and my happy customers and leave me alone, as the others have done.”

Monday 8 AM – group email: “Good morning team! I look forward to working with each one of you. Starting tomorrow and going forward, we will huddle here in the office at 8:30 AM and we will plan and update each other.”

Molly cannot believe what she is reading. This is not going to work for her. She lives the farthest away of all of the sales team and must have quick access to her aging mother who lives only 2 miles from her. Molly calls Jane in the human resources department.

“George is demanding that we come into the office and this will not work for me, Jane. I have been here a long time and I produce great results. I need to work virtually as I am a care giver for my mother. I am not afraid to look for another position, my results speak for themselves. If George cannot live with my virtual office arrangement, I will be forced to leave”.

Jane asked Molly to consider mediating with George for a joint solution and said she would reach out to George and ask the same question. If both agreed, Jane would set up the mediation. Molly agreed that it was worth a try.

Jane reached out to George.
George: “I really want the team to interact. The synergy is important and we do that most effectively when we are with each other. I think the sales team needs to follow my lead.”

Jane: “George, I appreciate your thoughts on this. There is a team member who may prepare to leave if this new rule is strictly enforced. She is willing to talk with you in a mediation session. Are you open for that, George?”

George: “For heaven’s sake, sales people…………………. If that is the only way to possibly keep her from moving on, okay”.

Jane chose to use the inclusive model of mediation* in this situation. She believes that Molly and George may be able to work out an agreement that will satisfy both of their needs.

The inclusive model of mediation focuses on three important components:

  1. Topics: topics are specific subjects that contain no emotion, judgement or positions. In the case of George and Molly the topic is the workplace.
  2. Values: each party in mediation has underlying values that are important to them concerning the topic. George’s values include leadership and tradition. He believes he leads best by using traditional methodologies. Molly’s values are independence and productivity. She believes that she produces results by being independent.
  3. Feelings: each party has feelings about the topic that typically align with their values. George feels eager and nervous—he wants to do a great job and he is nervous about how his team currently operates. Molly feels vulnerable and shocked. She wants to do a great job yet feels shocked that she is expected to change and vulnerable that if she does not conform she will have to find a new job.

The mediator continually reflects the parties’ values, topics, and feelings. Participants feel heard and understood, and typically begin to open up. Once the reflections are complete, participants are lead to the phase of identifying and developing possible solutions. Here are a few reflections used by Jane:

Jane: “George, what I hearing you saying is that you value traditional leadership when it comes to the workplace, correct? I also picked up that you are eager and a bit nervous about doing a great job with the new position?”

George: “Absolutely, Jane, you are correct.”

Jane: “Molly, I believe you said you value independence and personal productivity and you feel vulnerable and quite shocked by the changes proposed for the workplace?”

Molly: “Yes, Jane, I totally believe I operate very effectively in the virtual environment.”

One of the major keys to the success of the inclusive model is the continual reflection of topics, values, and feelings.

Let’s fast forward – Molly and George were able to create an agreement and the agreement included:

  • Molly and George agreed that Molly will be in the office on Mondays and Fridays
  • Molly and George agreed that Molly will join conference calls with the team on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • George agreed to evaluate his plan in 3 months for Molly and the others
  • Molly agreed to keep George up to date on any changes with her Mom that may require an adjustment

Happy, Successful Businesman

Jane, Molly, and George agreed to meet again in three months. Both Molly and George thanked Jane for the suggestion and the successful mediation.

Conflict Transformation Associates’ supports the use of mediation in the workplace as a method to save legal expenses, reduce turnover and improve morale. We encourage you to consider learning more about using mediation in your workplace.

*Community Mediation Maryland’s Inclusive Model©, 2014.