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AMA

I’m a mediator, AMA

22 replies

MaggieMediator · 08/02/2022 21:09

Not sure how much interest this will be to anyone but I’m a workplace and commercial mediator.

AMA

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ZoeTheThornyDevil · 08/02/2022 21:11

How often do people get to a mutually satisfactory resolution? What percentage of people have genuinely ludicrous expectations? What percentage of people think you are a judge of some sort and expect you to decree who is "right"?

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Fridafever · 08/02/2022 21:13

How did you start your practice? I’m quite interested in mediation as a career (I’m a lawyer now) but not sure I could handle the marketing/ building a practice part.

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SpinningTheSeedsOfLove · 08/02/2022 21:19

Is a lot of it shuttle mediation?

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Sunshineboo · 08/02/2022 21:20

do you secretly take sides?

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nancybotwinbloom · 08/02/2022 21:21

Can you tell us if you have had to deal with any ridiculous situations?

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aLittleL1fe · 08/02/2022 21:22

Do you evaluate whether mediation is appropriate for both parties prior to starting the process?

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UserBot9to5 · 08/02/2022 21:24

How would you advise resolving a situation where your mother has just completely stonewalled you because you want to tell her that she's hurt you, but that makes her ANGRY and she is the victim of that. She does want you to play the part of daughter though. Is there any way to get through to her?

There is no communication atm. Because I won't accept being stonewalled.

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accentdusoleil · 08/02/2022 21:25

What's your average day ?

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MaggieMediator · 08/02/2022 21:31

@ZoeTheThornyDevil

How often do people get to a mutually satisfactory resolution? What percentage of people have genuinely ludicrous expectations? What percentage of people think you are a judge of some sort and expect you to decree who is "right"?

The success rate in workplace mediation, based on the clients I’ve worked with, is higher than commercial. Workplace is about 40-50% success rate, whereas commercial is closer to 30-40%.

Some people may not think I’m a good mediator on that basis, but I promise I am and that seems around average for the industries I work with (the commercial work I do often involves contracts into the tens and sometimes millions in terms of value so moving to an actual court often makes more sense).

Ludicrous expectations are not uncommon. Certainly people come in with a very ambitious financial expectation, especially in workplace mediations. Outside of money, there’s often unrealistic expectations of what they want from the other person- public apologies in the staff canteen type of a thing.

I do get called judge occasionally and have to remind people that I’m not a judge, and they’re not on trial. I think there’s a lot of misconception around what mediation is, and who determines the outcome- ie, not me!

I’m also a qualified family mediator but don’t practice. From the few family mediations I did, there was a lot of “I’m turning on the charm so you’ll see I’m always right and they’re unreasonable and always wrong and I’m amazing for putting up with them”. Definitely still see a lot of that on the workplace/corporate side. I’m good at ignoring it and working past it.
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MaggieMediator · 08/02/2022 21:42

@Fridafever

How did you start your practice? I’m quite interested in mediation as a career (I’m a lawyer now) but not sure I could handle the marketing/ building a practice part.

Not too dissimilar to you, by the sounds of it.

I don’t work in mediation full time. My background is in law, then I moved into HR, did extra qualifications in employment law, and worked my way up to a Head of HR role. I was always interested in mediation and had the opportunity to complete a course and progress from there. I also did courses in supply chain/procurement and contract law so I’d have enough of a technical base on the commercial contract side to not be totally bamboozled by the terminology.

The industry I work in is very niche and I started doing workplace mediation within the industry for different companies. Then, via word of mouth, I was asked to work with other companies.

I know people who became mediators, started a website/FB page, and then wonder why they don’t get a big client base immediately. Word of mouth, and network through your professional body would be my recommendation. I’m also listed in the search page for my mediation body so people who are looking for my skills in my industry, in my area find me through that and they know I’m qualified and experienced.

I’m lucky that my job is very flexible so I work a compressed week over either three or four days, then mediate on the other days. I also have another closely-related role that’s more adjudication-based but that’s only a day per quarter so it’s full-on but I love it. I wouldn’t like to do mediation full time- all that listening wears me out Grin
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MaggieMediator · 08/02/2022 21:45

@SpinningTheSeedsOfLove

Is a lot of it shuttle mediation?

Yes. Strolling along a corridor between two rooms often accounts for most of my daily steps.

I prefer it, to be honest, as it can be easier to get people to get down to basics when they’re not guarded because they’re not in the same room.
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MaggieMediator · 08/02/2022 21:51

@Sunshineboo

do you secretly take sides?

Never.

Nope.

Not at all.

Sometimes.
Look, we’re all only human and we all form impressions of people quickly.

I guess the beauty of mediation is it doesn’t matter what I think- the two sides need to come to an agreement and I just give them the safe space to do that, and occasionally crack out a whiteboard to help them focus on getting there.

But yes, I’ve encountered people I’ve just not liked. That’s part of life but I stay neutral.

(But one of the things that really gets to me is when someone will admit, in private, that they knew they were 100% wrong but won’t let that fact be shared with the other party. Then we spend the next four hours trying to come to an agreement when it could’ve all been solved long before they even got to the mediation stage).
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MaggieMediator · 08/02/2022 21:58

@nancybotwinbloom

Can you tell us if you have had to deal with any ridiculous situations?

Not from a confidentially point of view but just in general-

People wanting elaborate apologies. That comes up surprisingly frequently. I tend to move people away from seeking any apology.

People wanting ridiculously large financial settlements (like, multiples of what they’d be awarded in an employment tribunal).

On the commercial side, very clear breaches of contract that people are just ridiculously argumentative about. (“I know they ordered 1 million blue widgets and we delivered 1 million pink widgets but they never explicitly said they didn’t want pink”).

There are cases, especially workplace, where manager/employee relationships are so awful, it astounds me to hear what’s gone on. Often there’s no one big issue, but can be dozens of little incidents that make you wonder how some people actually function in life.
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MaggieMediator · 08/02/2022 22:04

@aLittleL1fe

Do you evaluate whether mediation is appropriate for both parties prior to starting the process?

Yes, I do pre-mediation sessions the week beforehand, and also do a check-in again the day before the first session.

I generally get a brief overview of the issue, as seen by each side, and then talk them through what mediation will and won’t do for them.

That’s the stage where it often becomes clear that they’re looking for an adjudication service and I make it very clear that it’s not what they’re going to get.

If it’s a workplace session, I usually get a briefing from the company beforehand- mediation is usually requested via HR after their intervention so I find out what’s been done. It also means I get to brief the company on what’ll happen and prepare them for hearing very little about the outcome- usually it’s nothing more that “mediation took place between X and Y on Date and a resolution was found”.
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MaggieMediator · 08/02/2022 22:07

@UserBot9to5

How would you advise resolving a situation where your mother has just completely stonewalled you because you want to tell her that she's hurt you, but that makes her ANGRY and she is the victim of that. She does want you to play the part of daughter though. Is there any way to get through to her?

There is no communication atm. Because I won't accept being stonewalled.

Mediation could certainly help, but it doesn’t sound like it’d be easy to get either party to a point where they’re committed to listening to the other in an uninterrupted manner.

Counseling might be more appropriate- individual and joint.
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UserBot9to5 · 08/02/2022 22:14

I already tried and my mother cancelled at the last minute but told me by text to go on my own as I was the one who needed help. I had been having therapy and hadn't told her (at that point). I only told her when she said ''get help''. She walked past me on the street the other day. That's how committed she is to stonewalling me on the issue. Oh well, thank you for your reply. Wine

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MaggieMediator · 08/02/2022 22:35

@accentdusoleil

What's your average day ?

Funnily enough, while the issues that require mediation can vary hugely, the process is pretty standard so the lay-out of my day is pretty prescriptive.

On days I’m mediating, I’ve usually spoken to both parties the previous evening just to confirm everything but typically haven’t met them in person.

When they arrive, I meet them each individually, go through the ground rules and contract and, assuming everyone is happy to progress and be in a room together (not always the case), we then do a joint session I’m typically the one who is talking for the first 15-20 mins, again going over the rules, giving a very brief overview of what each has told me (and agreed I can share) then it’s over to the participants.

Depending on how it’s going, we all either stay in the same room, but it’s common to do shuttle mediation where each party is in a different room and I shuffle back and forth between them. This is especially common when we’re discussing financial remedy and neither party want to show their hands in front of the other. I’m bound by confidentially and can only share what I’ve been permitted to so even if party A tells me they know they’re 100% wrong and are willing to pay up to 100k to make the problem go away, but they don’t want party B to know that and tell me their offer is 10k with no admission of wrong-doing, I can’t go to B and say “they’re offering 10k but they’re low-balling you so ask for 150k and a written apology”.

I usually give them time at the start to give an uninterrupted account of the issue as they see it. I jump in as needed to keep everyone on-track and to stop any overbearing people running riot. Once both sides have spoken, we then move into discussion- the impact of what the other has said, the preferred way it can be handled in future etc.

If we’re at a standstill, I have a series of exercises/tools I use just to try and get both sides working towards seeing the others perspective.

I usually try to limit sessions to a half day but that’s not always possible. Coffee/bathroom breaks every two hours, or as requested, and a break for lunch, if needed. It’s a very strenuous process on people, especially the workplace ones. People are nervous and often emotional, and it’s a long day doing intense stuff like that so I think most people are wrecked after 3-4 hours.

Depending on how the morning goes, if we’re close to agreeing a way forward, I’ll keep going after lunch. If not, I’ll end the session at an appropriate break and then speak to each party a few days later to see if they’re happy to come back in for a further session or, if there’s been no progress, if they want to end the mediation and look at their next options.

Once an agreement has been made, I usually spend the afternoon typing up agreements, preparing contracts for the next session, and then make pre-mediation calls to those who are in next week or the next day.

I’ve had sessions where we haven’t gotten past the first post and it’s all over and heading for court/a tribunal after 15 mins- thankfully, that’s rare.

I occasionally have sessions where it gets very heated and we adjourn for a while so everyone can get some air and calm down.

Then, when I go home, I usually talk my husband’s ear off (not about mediation) because I’m a real talker and listening all day is hard.
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MaggieMediator · 08/02/2022 23:02

@UserBot9to5

I already tried and my mother cancelled at the last minute but told me by text to go on my own as I was the one who needed help. I had been having therapy and hadn't told her (at that point). I only told her when she said ''get help''. She walked past me on the street the other day. That's how committed she is to stonewalling me on the issue. Oh well, thank you for your reply. Wine

That sounds tough, @UserBot9to5, I’m sorry to hear it. There’s just no dealing with some people.
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Horological · 09/02/2022 08:28

This is interesting. Thank you for starting the thread.

Can I ask you why the expectation of an apology is problematic? Is it just to do with any liability or compensation which might arise from it? Otherwise I don't understand why you would want to steer people away from them. It's surely one of the main issues behind conflicts, that people don't acknowledge responsibility and instead throw up smokescreens and gaslight. I was in a situation with someone from work like this. I would have been satisfied with an apology but had to suffer many months of obfuscating half truths and dodgy 'explanations' many of which implied that I had somehow caused the situation.

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MaggieMediator · 09/02/2022 09:48

@Horological

This is interesting. Thank you for starting the thread.

Can I ask you why the expectation of an apology is problematic? Is it just to do with any liability or compensation which might arise from it? Otherwise I don't understand why you would want to steer people away from them. It's surely one of the main issues behind conflicts, that people don't acknowledge responsibility and instead throw up smokescreens and gaslight. I was in a situation with someone from work like this. I would have been satisfied with an apology but had to suffer many months of obfuscating half truths and dodgy 'explanations' many of which implied that I had somehow caused the situation.

It can be nuanced, depending on the situation, so I try to let it happen organically.

A genuine apology is very, very beneficial. I’ve had cases where A speaks and you can see the realisation dawn on B’s face and you get “I never realised that had such an impact on you, I’m sorry and promise to speak to you before things get to that stage in future”.
Often B will think issue X is the problem, but it turns out he didn’t realise that issue Y was having such an impact and is genuinely sorry.

That’s fantastic, but rare.

What you tend to get is-
I’m sorry you feel that way.
I’m sorry you think I did the wrong thing.
I’m sorry you’re not able to accept that this is the process that we always follow.

Apologies usually come with disclaimers or excuses-

I am sorry we had no choice but to do X because you continually did Y.
I’m sorry you felt this way, but everyone else on the team had no issue with it.

Apologies can often become a sticking point and a blocker.

A wants and apology.
B won’t give it.

Stalemate. You could literally spend days trying to get one but ultimately, it won’t happen if B is digging the heels in, and it won’t be genuine at any rate.

Plus, and I know I’ve said this before, there are people who have very unrealistic expectations of what an apology would look like.
Most people would accept a sincere “I’m sorry you were so upset, I know it was a difficult time for you”, but I do see quite a bit of demand for the public apology in the staff canteen/email to all staff from the manager outlining that s/he was 100% wrong and the employee is the best person ever.

Often apologies will become tit-for-tat.

So a workplace dispute that’s been going on for years will like have a number of incidents and you get-

“I will apologies for asking A why she was late in front of the whole team, but only if she apologies to me for not getting January’s month-end report finished and leaving without telling me it wasn’t done”.

Again, stalemate. A doesn’t feel sorry for not doing the report- she feels justified because B called out her lateness in front of her peers that morning and embarrassed her.

So a natural and genuine apology is great, but rare. If people feel justified in their actions, they feel they have nothing to apologise for and they are unlikely to chance that stance.

In other settings, apologies can be difficult in terms of liability, I’m talking more so on the commercial side here but it does apply to workplace, and solicitors will often advise their clients to not do anything that could be seen as accepting liability. That’s why mediation is normally focused on settlements.

“I’m sorry you’ve decided to sue me”, doesn’t really get anyone anywhere.

Also, at the end of the day, so many people say “all that matters to me is getting an apology” but that’s not entirely true. They’d like one, they often get emotional over it, but when it comes they don’t suddenly say “well, I know that I have enough evidence here to go to an employment tribunal and probably win and would likely get XX amount, or I’d accept YY amount from you today to save us both the hassle of tribunal proceedings, but you’ve apologised so let’s forget about the money.
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MaggieMediator · 09/02/2022 09:51

Just spotted this typo from last night-

the commercial work I do often involves contracts into the tens and sometimes millions in terms of value

It should read-

“the commercial work I do often involves contracts into the tens and sometimes hundreds of millions in terms of value”

I’m not mediating over fifty quid Grin

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Horological · 09/02/2022 12:39

Thanks for the reply. It makes a lot of sense!

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