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Could you use mediation skills to discipline staff? (April 2011)

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Human Law Ezine - April 2011

How to use mediation skills to discipline staff 

One of the issues facing organisations who have to discipline staff is that it has become so process driven that management is focused on complying with employment law, rather than managing the employee.

A lot of the employment law advice I give to business clients tends to focus on the giving warnings to staff be it on performance or conduct.

A disciplinary process is a pressure cooker situation for everyone. You are bound to feel uncomfortable with it no matter what. It is also likely to bring out the worst in you and the employee. As a consequence thorough preparation is key.

Ask yourself these questions:  
What are your motivations? Many disciplinary processes are undertaken with the motive of sacking an employee; others with a genuine attempt to improve the performance of the employee. A good mediator seeks to elicit the motives of the parties. If you know where you are ultimately going, a better result will ensue.

How (in)secure do you feel? A conflict situation brings the worst out in people and brings to the fore your negative character traits. A good mediator will try to help all the parties to feel more secure.

Do you really understand the other side? A conflict situation makes us feel more self-obsessed. An independent mediator will allow you to feel more confident and more focused on what the other side is saying.

Do you have an overall game plan for the disciplinary meeting? As a mediator I seek to encourage parties to think of the long term consequences of their actions. Like-wise when you enter a disciplinary meeting, try to think about the long term, not just point scoring.

How ethical do you feel? For long-term self esteem, one has to possess integrity. The danger for all of us is that our integrity goes out of the window the more we feel under pressure. A good mediator will help you understand the pressures you face and seek to guide you to a solution.

A mediated approach to disciplinary meetings, whether that means involving an external mediator in serious or high profile cases, or using your own mediation skills is a great way to secure the best results for both the business and the individual.

For advice on how to handle conflicts at work and for training for managers on mediation and conflict management skills contact Justin Patten here

 
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Testimonial

"Whilst Justin has a wealth of experience of the law and procedures involved in employment matters, I believe his greatest asset is his absolute genuine concern in taking the right course of action for his client. He is both sensitive and perceptive and, during a difficult time made the process less onerous and stressful for me."
Council Employee 
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