Some Questions People Ask About Mediation

We don't have all the answers, but we do have some general things to say about mediation and what it can do. For more information, please explore further the other pages on our site here, and email or call the Mediation Coordinator. Also, if you're a person people confide in or come to for advice, please think to recommend the mediation program to them if there is hostility, if things never get any better, if the people seem stuck talking about rather than to the person they're in conflict with, or if they seem to be heading for an impasse. As members of this campus community, we can all challenge each other to resolve disputes.

What are some of the benefits and opportunities that mediation offers?

Trust can come back. If you have experienced a betrayal of trust by someone you work with, it is possible, through mediation, to negotiate rules of future engagement that can eventually restore trust in the future. Mediation does not mean compromise. Mediation gives parties the opportunity to really understand both their own and the other party's interests better and, with that understanding, a chance to discover or create resolutions that "add value" or "increase the size of the pie," or otherwise serve the interests of all the parties better than a more formal process such as grievance, arbitration, or litigation--or even informal splitting the difference between two initial positions--would.

Any employee can request mediation for a difficult or important conversation with a supervisor, an administrator, or any other employee. An administrator or supervisor can request mediation for a difficult or important conversation with a faculty member or any other employee or another administrator. Mediation is voluntary. Colleagues, supervisors, chairs, deans, and other administrators can suggest mediation. But nobody can make you participate in a mediation.  Any party in a mediation may decline to engage in the mediation, and any party can withdraw from a mediation at any time. Mediation is confidential. No mediator or member of the Coordinating Committee will divulge information about the mediation or name the parties involved without the parties' permission.

In mediation, people don't lose the way they can in arbitration (whether formal or informal) or litigation.

Finally, it's a basic premise of the Mediation Program that people of conscience and integrity can disagree.

Will my supervisor retaliate against me if I ask for mediation?

While we can’t vouch for what someone else might do, we know the chances of such an improper move by a supervisor are very low.  And if you have specific concerns about retaliation, we can discuss strategies with you for protecting yourself from retaliation. The administration at SCSU has made the commitment never to punish anybody for requesting or taking part in mediation.

Will the fact that I requested mediation be used against me in annual evaluations or in faculty promotion/retention decisions?

This would be a specific form of retaliation, and our answer here is the same as our answer just above. In addition, it’s important to remember that mediation is not a personnel process but a conflict-management process.

Will my supervisor or dean communicate to others in my unit or department that I have requested mediation, and will that be used to further isolate and marginalize me?

This is yet another form of retaliation, and, again, while we can’t vouch for what somebody else might do, we can help you assess these risks and devise a plan to minimize the risks.

Can they put something in my personnel file regarding mediation?

No! Mediation is a conflict-management process, not a personnel process.  We in the program are bound by confidentiality. 

Is it true that they ask for mediation as a step toward firing you?

Not true! Mediation is not part of any personnel process. The Mediation Program is not a part of the administration. We would not accept a request from a supervisor who was seeking to use a mediation to discredit or discipline or fire an employee.

Won't the other party see it as an escalation or an aggressive move if I ask for a mediation with them? On the other hand, if I agree to a request for mediation, won't that put me at a strategic disadvantage somehow--like I've conceded process decisions to the other party, or I've tolerated their getting in my face through this aggressive move of formally requesting the mediation?

Both requesting parties and responding parties are sometimes concerned about whether a request for mediation is an aggressive tactic. And, in fact, a request for mediation occasionally is intended as an aggressive act, though this is uncommon. The mediators control the process, and we are committed to multi-partiality. Even a person requesting a mediation as an act of aggression can be counseled to understand the process as an opportunity not for attack but for resolution. And if any party to a mediation persists in trying to abuse the process to attack or intimidate or embarrass another party, the mediators are committed to controlling the process so that this does not happen.

Can I request a mediator to help with student complaints?

A student cannot request an official mediation using the mediation program, but in the past some mediators have been willing to volunteer their time and expertise to work with students and university employees. Also, some employees have requested mediation themselves in order to honor the student’s desire to work through a conflict.

How much time does a mediation take?

From the time you submit your request for a mediation to the time you and the other party sign an agreement at the conclusion of the mediation (if you decide to have a written agreement) usually takes several weeks.  If there are several parties in the mediation, or if there are scheduling difficulties, or if there are complex issues that take time to work out, a mediation may sometimes take considerably longer. Individual consultations with a mediator or mediation team usually are scheduled for an hour or so, and mediated meetings among the parties usually are scheduled for two hours. 

If I have a grievance, won't I miss the time deadlines if I agree to mediation?

We have representatives from the various bargaining units on the mediation coordinating committee who are mindful of the timelines for grievance under the various collective bargaining agreements. We will work with you and your union representative to make sure that grievance-related deadlines are not missed.

Doesn't mediation mean somebody'll just find a compromise between our two positions?

Mediation does not mean compromise. Mediation gives parties the opportunity to really understand both their own and the other party's interests better and, with that understanding, a chance to discover or create resolutions that "add value" or "increase the size of the pie," or otherwise serve the interests of all the parties better than a more formal process such as grievance, arbitration, or litigation--or even informal splitting the difference between two initial positions--would. You won't be controlled or made to do something. You and the other parties who are in the mediation with you have the power to find and make your own solutions. Mediators do not control or decide the solution. Mediators aren't grievance officers, arbitrators or union negotiators. Nothing can happen to you that you don't agree to. Mediators control the process. They are committed to helping all the parties express their interests clearly and effectively so that all the other parties understand these interests. They are committed to achieving a fair process and to avoiding any bullying or intimidation by any party. Mediators are committed to being "multi-partial." They are trying to work for the interests of all the parties.

Why should I try mediation? I'm just going to "get" that other person instead.

It’s true that this alternative is always available to you. It’s worth asking, though, how well this really would work for you and your work unit. How much energy, your own and other colleagues’, would be drawn away from productive work and invested in your conflict? What are the risks of becoming a respondent in a grievance or a civil rights or harassment complaint? How satisfying is it, really, to be invested in such a dispute?

Why should I try mediation? I've already tried talking to that other person.

Our mediators can explore with you a range of options, including a formal mediation, for dealing with an intractable conflict with a co-worker. These include brainstorming new tactics for talking one-to-one, mediated conversations, creating healthy alliances, and eliminating destructive alliances.

If I ask for mediation, doesn't it tell everybody that I can't solve my own problems?

Requesting mediation is not a sign of weakness or lack of ability to engage with colleagues. Frequently people request mediation in the hope of providing a sense of safety to the other party and helping the other party gain the confidence to engage in an effective conversation about that party's goals and interests. Requesting mediation indicates a good faith commitment to clarifying understanding of both shared and conflicting interests and to building community.

Why should I try mediation? This is a long-standing dispute and it seems dormant right now. I don't want to make it worse.

Nothing any of us do in a conflict is risk-free, and requesting a mediation is no different. In many cases, requesting a mediation impacts a conflict in positive ways. It implies your good-faith commitment to a productive resolution and your respect for the other parties. However, there are a range of alternative approaches to a difficult working relationship, and we are prepared to explore your options and your resources with you. If you have concerns about a possible negative impact of a request, you should raise these with a mediator or mediation coordinator.