I’m based in The Landing at MediaCityUK and if I’m available, I do try to make it along to the breakfast networking events at On The 7th and I was pleased to make it along recently to see a mock mediation by Marcia Lister of Marcia Mediation.
The scene was set with Alisha and Mike doing a great job of acting the parts of Charlotte and Guy. I won’t unpack the scenario in detail but it is a really common one where two people in an SME have fallen out following an incident at work. These two people need to work really well together for the good of the business but they can hardly speak to each other and the working relationship is dreadful.
Marcia talked us through a process for mediation where she would have initial phone discussions in advance of the meetings and we picked the story up where we watched Marcia have initial (and separate) face-to-face meetings with Charlotte and Guy.
Initial meeting with Guy: Guy’s frustration came across loud and clear, with him saying that he felt undermined, humiliated, bullied, and that the confrontation had seriously undermined him in front of his team. Guy said several times that he didn’t feel listened to and that the whole thing could have been handled differently. I noticed Marcia use many of the skills we use in coaching; listening without judging, and guiding Guy through an exploration of the background, what actually happened, and where things are at. Marcia sent Guy off with some homework to think about what what he will say to Charlotte when they meet together.
Initial meeting with Charlotte: Charlotte’s frustration also came across loud and clear and although she states that she shouldn’t have blown up about the incident, she says she feels let down and disappointed, describing Guy’s behaviour as ‘bang out of order’. It was interesting to see Charlotte passing lots of judgements about ‘I would have thought that he…’, and it was clear that she had lost all confidence and trust in Guy. Marcia guided Charlotte through reflecting on facts, feeling, and impact before sending Charlotte off with the same homework.
We then saw Marcia meet individually with Guy and Charlotte to review their prepared statement for their joint meeting, with Marcia encouraging each to reflect on how some of their most challenging statements might impact the other. It was really interesting to hear the statements, with each person initially making loads of unfounded judgements based on assumptions and partial information. It was also interesting to notice a real doubt about whether things could be resolved, but with a willingness to try by committing to the process of mediation.
The joint meeting was equally fascinating, with both Charlotte and Guy reading their pre-prepared statements and then talking about their desire to resolve the conflict. I was pleased to see them be really honest about their feelings (I’m a great believer in the power of truth) and it was interesting to see them revealing lots of additional information to each other, things that started to change their perception. As Guy and Charlotte started to see the other’s perspective, there was a real clearing of the air which ended up with both apologising and it was interesting to see Marcia guide the conversation onto how they would make sure that they didn’t get into a similar situation in the future.
It was fascinating to observe Marcia guiding them both to a good outcome and I can imagine this being a fairly typical scenario (people jumping to conclusions about the others behaviour without knowing the full picture, with both people at fault, and a clumsily-handled confrontation escalating and seeming like the final nail in the coffin).
Strengths (and Gallup StrengthsFinder) forms a major part of my work and I regularly see examples of how people can misunderstand each other as they are viewing other people through the lens of their own strengths. I’ve seen the power in using StrengthsFinder to help people understand each other so I asked Michael and Marcia Lister if they would like to write a guest post for my blog about the role that strengths play in mediation . They obliged, and here it is:
Aligning Strengths, Motives and Workplace Mediation
We have all seen it happen. Maybe we have experienced it ourselves.
You are an event planner at a non for profit organisation. You have been organising successful events for the organisation for over 10 years. Every year you are commended in appraisal for your organisational and influential skills.
And then your boss leaves the company, and a new one takes over.
And this one decides:
First; you are not as good as a colleague she would love to bring over from her previous organisation who has amazing organisational and influential skills, and with whom she has enjoyed a trouble free working relationship for the last ten years and
Second; she doesn’t like you.
Through no fault of your own, you are left feeling that ten years of loyal, happy service, suddenly count for nothing and work that was previously a joy has overnight become a sadness and an increasing worry.
You could just accept it and look for another job. But why should you? You are good at this one and were it not for the new manager, would have expected to enjoy a long and happy career right here.
Or you could fight it. The obvious way forward is to raise a grievance against your new manager. This will result in a full investigation and a hearing so ensuring that you have your say. If the hearing does not go in your favour you can appeal, and if you lose the appeal you can then resign.
And if you believe your grievance was not handled fairly you can sue for constructive dismissal.
That said, you may well win your grievance. Your manager may then appeal. And she may lose and you will have won. What? An opportunity to continue to work for a manager who first ,longs to work with someone else and, second, dislikes you more than ever.
This is a common example of how basic human emotions can and do play havoc with our working lives. Your new boss feels insecure in her new job with her new colleagues, and yearns for the security of working with previous colleagues. You feel rejected, undervalued, and perhaps even humiliated by the treatment from your new boss. Everyone has become caught up in a vortex of negative personal relationships and has become removed from the objectives of the organisation, which previously had been, and still should be, the motivation for coming to work in the first place.
Yet there is a far more productive way forward.
Work place mediation will allow you and your manager to explain to each other how you feel. The mediator would meet with you each first and coach you on how best to express yourself without heightening the downward spiral of emotion. You will each find yourself reminded of why you want to work for the organisation, the objectives it advances, and your wish to champion them through your work. Your manager can find a safe space to admit and then put her insecurities behind her. And you can demonstrate that she can enjoy a working relation with you that is just as good, if not better, than the one she had with her previous colleague.
You will both understand each other, accept that whilst you each have strengths and weaknesses, you both have an unshakeable commitment to the causes of the organisation and, together, will make a great team.
Strengths profiling can add to the process. Your manager will see how your flair for organisation, backed up by your record, might be further harnessed to take the organisation to even greater heights. Further, she can discover where her own strengths lie as a manager and how they can be complemented by yours; aligning and merging your respective strengths to the goals of the organisation for the benefit of everyone within it, and those it serves.