The National Hockey League players and owners have been in negotiations over a labor dispute for almost three months, while the current hockey season is at a standstill. Federal mediators attempted to help the two sides end the NHL lockout , but the mediators have left the process. Why bring in a mediator, anyway? Can a mediator really help?
Mediation and arbitration are often confused; they are very different types of alternative dispute resolution. Mediation is a process of working out disputes (such as those in labor disagreements) by a trained mediator, who attempts to bring the two parties together. Mediation is an informal non-binding process; the mediator cannot force the parties to do anything. It's also private, so no one outside the negotiation knows what went on.
If it's not binding, how can mediation work? The American Arbitration Association reports that over 85% of all mediation cases result in a settlement. As reported by professional mediator Michael Roberts, some reasons mediation works are these:
1. The mediator can control and direct the communications, helping the parties avoid unproductive discussions.
2. A skilled mediator can limit the hard bargaining that often occurs when attorneys are present. The mediator can keep the focus on common ground rather than differences.
3. All decision-makers are present and available to focus on settlement.
4. The mediator helps both sides explore realistic settlement options.
Mediator and Facilitator Jeff Bean says the biggest challenge in mediation is when the parties don't really want to reach agreement, but "if people want to reach an agreement, they're already more than half-way there."
If you are involved in a business dispute, you might want to try a mediator.