How does mediation work?
In broad terms, the mediation process recognises that both parties involved in a dispute usually want it resolved. There are exceptions where a party is driven by emotion or principle or the need to establish a precedent, but when reality is allowed to intrude, some solution is generally better than none.
As a rule also, both parties accept within themselves that there may have to be some degree of compromise and that the solution they would ultimately swallow may be less than their ideal. There is much truth behind the old line that a good settlement is one which makes both parties equally unhappy.
The role of the mediator is to oblige each party to consider more consciously the attractions of a solution as against the alternatives if no solution is reached. The main alternatives in a discrimination case, for example, are obvious. For the employee, possible loss of employment, stress, expense, publicity, fear of losing the claim, being obliged to relive the circumstances under cross-examination, etc. For the individual manager accused, the distraction, adverse publicity, fear of criticism by a tribunal, the disapproval of his employer, legal costs or even an award against him personally.
For the employer, the effective loss of the two employees and part of the HR function while the proceedings continue, adverse PR, the possibility of vicarious liability, legal costs (win or lose) and the discovery at the end of tribunal proceedings that the employee is still there but is now (dependent on the outcome) either terminally embittered or unmanageably smug.