Conflict Resolution

Sharon has been extensively involved in the practice of conflict management and dispute resolution in both the statutory and private spheres as a negotiator, mediator, facilitator and trainer for nearly 20 years. She has considerable experience in labour and employment mediation and more recently her focus has been on workplace mediation, a dynamic form of mediation widely used in the UK in the area of interpersonal conflict and a growing area of conflict resolution in South Africa.

Approach to conflict management and dispute resolution

Sharon’s approach to managing conflict and resolving disputes is to assist parties in conflict to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes which address their underlying needs and concerns. Her effectiveness is enhanced by the coaching competencies she brings to her role of third party intervener. For example, she works with parties to develop their understanding of the “presenting issues” and how their own interpretation and behaviour is contributing to the conflict and how they can begin to shift this.

Sharon’s mediation qualifications and memberships include:

  • IMSSA (Independent Mediation Service of South Africa) trained mediator and arbitrator;
  • CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration), trained mediator and arbitrator;
  • FAMSA trained Divorce Mediator;
  • CCMA specialist mutual interest conciliator (for conciliating disputes of national interest) and CCMA “Building Workplace Relations” facilitator;
  • Conciliator with a number of bargaining councils; and
  • Tokiso Dispute Settlement (a private dispute settlement service) panelist.

What is workplace mediation (also referred to as “interpersonal mediation”)?

Workplace mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which an impartial third party works with individuals who are in conflict or dispute to explore, understand and appreciate their differences with a view to re-establishing and/or improving their working relationship.

This type of mediation has a strong transformative quality in that the mediator works with the parties to help them articulate their perceptions and feelings and assists them to recognise the validity of each others’ needs and concerns so that they can shift from blame and negativity to a more constructive future relationship.

The parties determine the content of the discussion and decide the outcome, while the mediator controls the process, which is informal and flexible.

How does workplace mediation differ from traditional employment/labour mediation?

The key differences between employment mediation and workplace mediation are: the types of issues typically dealt with; the timing of the mediation; and the role of the mediator in relation to process, content and the engagement with and between the parties.

When is workplace mediation appropriate?

Workplace mediation is most appropriate early in the life of the conflict, where the people involved are committed to resolving the issues and are keen to pursue a different approach to the traditional approaches (such as lodging a grievance or using disciplinary processes).

What issues can workplace mediation address?

Performance, strained relationships, issues of diversity, discrimination and values (organisational and individual), bullying and harassment, organisational change, incompatibility or personality clashes, conflict arising from mergers and acquisitions, disputes between and within teams.

What does a workplace mediation process entail?

The process involves three stages which include:

  • Individual meetings between the mediator and each party to uncover the issues, needs and feelings and secure parties’ agreement to participate in the process.
  • A joint meeting between the mediator and both parties in which the parties have the opportunity to express their feelings and concerns directly to each other, to explore the issues giving rise to the conflict or dispute between them and work towards a mutually acceptable agreement.
  • Follow-up by the mediator with each party to see whether the agreement has held and establish whether any changes to the agreement or further support may be necessary.

What are the benefits of workplace mediation?

  • A positive way of managing conflict – the process addresses the underlying causes of the conflict and not just the manifestations
  • Restores relationships at work
  • Prevents conflict escalating into a dispute
    • Resolves disputes before they are determined by the CCMA
    • Saves actual costs and associated costs such as management time
    • Supports line management and HR
    • Improves morale and productivity
  • Models effective conflict management skills and capabilities