What Does My Mediator Mean When She Asks about Barriers?

Posted by LADR on May 27th, 2014 in Employment Mediation

There may be barriers to resolution of a dispute that would be helpful for the mediator to know prior to the employment mediation. Whether you discuss these barriers with your client depends on your client’s ability to “hear the message.” Such impediments to settlement are highly personal and fact-dependent.

For employees, barriers that impede the ability to resolve a dispute may include extreme anger or a feeling of betrayal, especially if the employer is describing performance deficiencies with which the employee disagrees or which she never heard before. The employee may have unreasonable expectations, or may not realistically be able to tolerate litigation. An employee’s identity may be strongly connected to the employer, and that may be difficult for the employee to let go of if the employer is seeking separation. An employee may have suffered an emotional injury as a result of a workplace trauma that creates a barrier to resolution.

For employer-representatives, the barriers are similar. They may be experiencing anger and a sense of betrayal by allegations of wrongdoing, especially if the employee is alleging discrimination or harassment, and even worse if the allegations – if proven – may impact the decision-maker’s own employment status. Conflicts may arise between the employer and the accused manager. The employer may have unreasonable expectations as well, or be concerned (reasonably or not) that the proverbial “floodgates” will open if they settle.

Whatever the barriers that you perceive, discuss them with the mediator and allow the mediator to assist in moving the clients beyond the barriers.