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Bullying and harassment complaints
Is mediation the answer?

by Nora Doherty

April 2 2004 - Workplace Mediation is becoming an increasingly popular dispute resolution method to resolve interpersonal employee conflicts including harassment and bullying complaints. Nora Doherty, Director of Professional Mediation Resolutions (PMR) explains what mediation is, how it can be most appropriately used by organisations and what kind of training staff may require.

There are many factors to explain why workplace mediation is now becoming the most favoured dispute resolution method for the resolution of employee conflicts including harassment and bullying - the huge increase in the number of employee complaints (employment tribunal cases reached record levels last year), the higher levels of compensation, the continuing introduction of new employment legislation and, for many, the realisation that formal procedures and investigations can in some circumstances be so adversarial and stressful to all concerned that any possibility of people working together again is minimal.

It is also true to say that the government, through the latest changes to the Employment Bill 2002, are encouraging organisations to set up their 'internal' dispute resolution procedures such as workplace mediation. This is mainly to reduce the increasing number of complaints going to employment tribunals.

Workplace Mediation is based on the principles of encouraging constructive communication in a safe and confidential environment, identifying mutual solutions and agreements and restoring respectful, professional working relationships.

Harassment/Bullying Complaints

In many cases of harassment or bullying, people want certain behaviours or language to change and do not wish to go down the route of formal investigation, particularly if they want the working relationship to continue. Often there are issues on both sides which could be helped by better communication and understanding - facilitated by an experienced mediator.

If the mediation is not successful or if the complaint is more serious, then people can always invoke formal or legal procedures.

Even given that mediation is not appropriate in all circumstances, I would estimate that more than one third of all employee complaints could be best dealt with by mediation.

The Benefits of Workplace Mediation

  • quick to set up
  • less costly in every sense of the word (ie financially, management time, employee stress, and the effects of an unproductive working environment)
  • more positive: more likely to give those involved the outcomes they want
  • more constructive: helps restore working relations rather than destroy them

Page 2 - Case Studies

Page 3 - Who does the mediation?

Nora Doherty is Director of Professional Mediation Resolutions (PMR) Ltd, which offers independent mediation, and a six-day Certificate Workplace Mediation training accredited by the Open College Network, in London and Derbyshire every year.

All details and course bookings via their web site or e-mail Nora on:

PMR Ltd have also released an informational, promotional training video/or dvd on 'Workplace Mediation - Rebuilding Working Relationships' which gives an explanation of what workplace mediation is, with graphics of its six step structure, principles and uses within organisations, alongside unique footage of two workplace mediations of typical inter-employee disputes, including a complaint of bullying against a manager.

The video/or dvd can be purchased directly on-line via PMR's web site on

This video will be of particular interest to organisations and human resource personnel considering including 'mediation' into their dispute resolution policies and to managers/trainers who need such a resource for mediation or conflict management skills training.'

Copyright © 2004 Nora Doherty, all rights reserved


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