E-mediations bring people together in a safe way to mediate their disputes.
There are a lot of people working from home due to the current health pandemic, but that has not ended all workplace disputes. As a matter of fact, social distancing has exacerbated many disputes. Without the ability to discuss issues in person, misunderstands arise and tempers flare. Add to that the stress we are all feeling due to COVID-19 and you have the recipe for disputes arising more frequently than usual.
The good news is online dispute resolution tools make it easier to calm things down. It is a way to communicate effectively while still maintaining social distance. It is even possible to bring in a neutral third-party to oversee these online conversations when the need arises.
What is Virtual Mediation?
Virtual mediation is just as it sounds: disputes are mediated virtually. All parties come together online to discuss their issue and work out a resolution that meets everyone’s needs. Negotiations are conducted via webcam and the mediation is run as it would be in person, but everyone is in a separate location.
Mediation is a voluntary process that enables people to resolve their dispute outside of the courtroom. It leaves them in control of the process and the outcome, and offers more flexible solutions than would be available if decision-making were in the hands of a judge or arbitrator.
Mediators are third-party neutral figures skilled in effective communication. They meet with parties involved in the dispute separately, encouraged them to consider potential outcomes, and help them understand the benefit of settling outside of court. Mediation is confidential and non-binding unless all parties agree otherwise. It saves time, money, and frustration, and is especially helpful in the workplace because it preserves relationships.
How Does Virtual Mediation Differ from Traditional In-person Mediation?
It really does not, aside from the fact that parties are in separate locations and discussions are held virtually. Otherwise the spirit of mediation remains the same. Mediators use videoconference, including Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype, and also communicate with those involved in the dispute via email, text messaging, telephone, and automated systems when necessary.
E-mediation can also be a fully automated process that relies on a dispute resolution system with computer prompts. Those involved would answer automatic questions to help with information gathering and resolution. In these cases, there is no interaction from a third-party neutral. This can be effective in many cases, but tends to not work as well in workplace disputes.
Benefits of Virtual Mediation
Virtual mediation for workplace disputes offers several benefits, many of which it shares with traditional in-person mediation.
The process fosters positive communication, which makes it easier to move forward once a dispute is resolved. This is especially important in the workplace where co-workers must continue to collaborate and work as a team even if there are problems.
There is also evidence that subordinates who participated in mediation to resolve a problem with their superiors were more satisfied when virtual mediation tools were used. Many have reported feeling as though communicating virtually led to fewer power struggles and kept the focus primarily on the issue at hand.
These benefits indicate that it could be useful for employers to continue using e-mediation tools even after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. It offers an opportunity to better manage conflict and reduce the costs – both financial and otherwise – of problems arising in the office.
The fact is, virtual mediation makes it easier to deal with problems that might worsen face to face. We have all been in situations at some point in our lives where we could not stand to be in the same room with a person. The hope for resolving a dispute when this is the case is slim at best. Dealing with this type of situation virtually takes the edge off and creates opportunities where they might not have existed in the past.
How to Take Advantage of Virtual Mediation for Resolving Workplace Disputes
There are a few things you need to do to get the virtual mediation process up and running: