A number of people have asked me, “What exactly is an office mediation?”

 

So I’m writing here to tell you about one particular case. The names, obviously, have been changed to preserve confidentiality.

Corel Insurance Agency is located in San Diego.

It’s run by three principals and has about 40 employees.

Lauren, the operations manager, has been there for over 20 years. About two years ago, they hired Jack, the new IT manager.

Lauren, because of her longevity, knew the company inside out so she was the repository of company knowledge and history.

Jack, the new Technology officer, was gifted in his field and came highly recommended by everyone they spoke to.

It was essential that Lauren and Jack work together and collaborate in many areas, including compliance, marketing, security, and HR.

Unfortunately, they were very different people. And THAT became obvious within the first few weeks. Lauren thought Jack talked too much and was too willing to joke around in the office. She also felt threatened by Jack’s strength in technology, an area she had overseen for a number of years, while the company was smaller.

Jack, for his part, experienced Lauren as secretive and protective of her domain – only willing to dole out little bits of info at a time. He didn’t feel supported by her. He began to wonder whether Lauren liked seeing him fail.

Catherine, the COO, contacted me and explained the problem and invited me to see if I could remedy the situation. We decided that an “office mediation” was worth a try.

The first thing I did is schedule an “Assessment Session.” Informally, it’s really just a listening session–for me to listen to each person’s unique perspective on the situation.

people coffee tea meeting


More importantly I look for an underlying willingness on the part of all parties for a mediation to succeed. If there is not a willingness, the chances of success are low.

I don’t charge for this first meeting, so it’s “no risk.” If after this first session any one feels it doesn’t make sense to forward, we don’t move forward.

At Corel, there was willingness, as well as some wariness, which is to be expected.

Next, I held a “Foundation Session” with both Lauren and Jack - an hour separately with each, listening to their stories, their fears and their doubts. Here they began to understand I’m not there to push the bosses agenda, but to truly hear them out, without judgment – so we can create an open, honest and relaxed environment.

Then we scheduled six hours of mediation - three 2-hour sessions, all three of us in the same room, around a table.

We dove deep into the issues, allowing both Lauren and Jack to express things they had been afraid to express in the past. As the mediator, I focused on making it safe for them to do that. Even after just one session, much of the tension had been relieved.

In our last session we focused on tactics and implementation– basically taking what we learned and making it actionable, going forward into the future.

We also scheduled three months of follow-up coaching to ensure that the new ways of communicating and working together we’re taking hold.

So how did it go?

While Lauren and Jack may never become best friends, the animosity, suspicions, and fears no longer play out in their day-to-day interactions. And they've learned to work together productively and cordially.

And the cost? A fraction of what it costs to recruit, hire, on-board, outplace – not to mention the time and knowledge lost when someone is terminated or leaves unexpectedly.

At Corel, this approach worked well and to the complete satisfaction of all concerned. My guess is without the mediation, there were two likely outcomes: 1) the new person might have left, or 2) as what happens in many companies, they might have limped along for years with daily miscommunication slowing their growth and success.