Workplace mediation can help even when there’s no immediate conflict to resolve.
Reader: I had a very close relationship with my former boss, who has retired. The boss’s replacement and I have not gotten along in the past; our history has included borderline abusive management practices (severe micromanaging, gossip, scoldings, etc).
We had a falling-out when the new boss vetoed a decision on a project I had conceived with my previous boss. In retrospect, I should have bitten the bullet and accepted the veto after pleading my case, but given our previous interactions, I stood my ground. I requested mediation with the new boss, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, since then, my new boss’s attitude has done a complete 180 for the better.
How should I approach my new boss’s new, better management style? Should I still pursue mediation?
Karla: First, let’s take a moment to applaud your employer for offering what sounds like in-house mediation to resolve these kinds of workplace issues. Often, employees engaged in interpersonal conflicts are told to work it out themselves — which, if that were possible, they would have done already — or suck it up and accept that what the boss says, goes. Or the company expects a manager or human-resources staffer to arbitrate, regardless of whether that person has any skill or training in conflict resolution, or even the ability to listen impartially to both sides.
I want to be clear: Not all disputes are the “talk it out in mediation” kind. Abuse, discrimination and legal violations demand intervention from HR, upper management and possibly even an external governmental authority.
But even seemingly minor misunderstandings, miscommunications and other daily frustrations can undermine the stability of a workplace and drive wedges between people who need to be working together. Conflict poisons the environment as resentment builds, aggrieved parties vent to their friends, and those friends take sides. Work product suffers. The employer starts losing talent as workers who feel unheard and disrespected decide to take their skills elsewhere — something we saw often during the “Great Resignation.”
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