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New Year’s Resolution

From the CMP Resolution Blog of John Crawley, Lesley Allport and Katherine Graham.

CMP are resolving to get even better at communicating with you about dispute resolution. On that theme here are some additional ideas for how to promote mediation, continuing from December’s 2010 blog and white paper.

Improving ‘accessibility’ ‘relevance’ and ‘salience’ of information about mediation

Thaler and Sunstein recognize how much information material cascades at people in order to influence their living and working habits. This information does its job most effectively when it presents ideas which are ‘accessible’ ‘relevant’ and ‘salient’ to the audience.

Accessibility: positioning of mediation in policies/procedures

Ensure that mediation is prominently and appropriately positioned in all relevant procedures which touch on people’s rights and responsibilities: grievance and disciplinary, dignity (or fairness) at work, performance management, customer complaints, health and safety, sickness absence, corporate and social responsibility, recruitment and retention.

Accessibility: creating an appropriate mention of mediation in employment contracts

The debate about whether mediation should be mandatory is ongoing. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) could consider recommending employment contracts which include a clause which encourages mediation, as a way of demystifying and normalising mediation.

Relevance: use ‘trigger’ times to remind people of mediation

It is important to alert people to potential workplace hazards at ‘trigger’ times when the risk is high, to counterbalance the unrealistically optimistic view most people have of risk. Including a reminder of mediation in the performance management cycle, or during a restructure or period of intense change, will have a positive impact. When a high value ET payment is publicised it often sparks copy cat applications. People are considering complaining or raising issues so a reminder of mediation would be relevant.

Salience: ‘map’ choices in a way that makes sense to potential users

Nudges work best when they are ‘salient’ – they mean something to the person concerned. Many policy documents or workplace flyers about grievances and disciplinaries are written in ‘procedure speak’ – they offer ‘fairness’ ‘dignity’ ‘treating the issue seriously’. These words are like ciphers with little meaning. We need to map processes and what they offer in a more meaningful way. For example; Thaler and Sunstein noticed how digital camera companies are ‘reframing’ their comparison information from technical specifications to more meaningful information about camera capabilities e.g. from ‘this camera has 3, 4 or 5 megabytes capability’ to ‘this camera can produce high quality images up to 4×6 and that one can produce high quality images up to 8×10’. These types of ‘capability statements’ really help the potential customer understand what they are getting in their own terms of reference. Utilising this principle, information material about mediation would be more salient if it mapped out choices practically rather than technically using:

  • ‘Before’ and ‘after’ scenarios: this is how you might be feeling, thinking, behaving now; this is how people using mediation emerge after
  • Logistical comparators: mediation 2 days max, investigation 12-14 days
  • Who makes the decisions: comparators
  • Meaningful examples of likely outcomes: e.g. repairing communication, rebuilding confidence, getting difficult feedback across, understanding one another’s difficulties and being able to move on
  • Comparators about levels of paperwork: opportunities for dialogue versus argument
  • Risk factors of not using mediation: e.g. confidentiality breaches, loss of face, stress


Many potential users like to test something out, use it bit by bit. Providers could supply bite sized introductory sessions, or a token for a free first hour (like solicitors).

Testing the water – complete CMP’s Ready to Resolve (R2R) questionnaire to help policy-makers and decision makers sample what is involved in setting up a new mediation facility (internal or external). The questionnaire covers all the key ingredients involved, offers a current score and nudges organisational decision-makers to cost-effective next steps.

Reducing the ‘social contagion’ of negative conflict

‘Social contagion’ describes trends which develop fast and take on a life of their own. Many significant indicators suggest that conflict at work has reached the level of a ‘contagion’. It has become more socially acceptable, as has challenging authority. Mediation is not about banning conflict; it is about managing it positively and reducing escalation. Handled well conflict is a force for good, a vehicle for understanding and a way of galvanising people around a cause.


John Crawley

John Crawley is the Founder and Chair of CMP Resolutions and has been working in organisations who are experiencing conflict for the last 20 years. He has acquired a unique range of conflict narratives illustrating what works and what does not. John developed and utilised the model of Constructive Conflict… MORE >

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