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MEDIATION JOURNAL


The Unassailable Business Case for Workplace Mediation


I am going to stick my neck out and suggest that workplace mediation offers perhaps the largest untapped opportunity for cost-cutting and improving profitability in business in the UK today. The many benefits of a mediation culture, including lower levels of conflict, improved morale, improved staff retention and even improved relations with suppliers and customers are really important and are a big part of that business case, but are outside the scope of this article. I am going to focus here just on the cost savings in terms of management and HR time.


Any manager in business will tell you that a lot of their time is spent dealing with conflicts of various kinds. Their range is vast, including tiny niggles over terms and conditions, such as whether or not a shift bonus is being properly paid, personality clashes, serious allegations of bullying/ harassment or even inter-departmental conflicts over resources that threaten the very survival of the business. Studies have repeatedly shown that workplace disputes occupy very significant levels of management time within organisations. It is not uncommon to see assessments quoting figures as high as 20% of all management time being spent dealing with such matters.


The sorts of conflicts referred to above all involve the investment of precious management and HR time, even


By Antony Sendall


if no formal processes are undertaken. However, there often will be formal procedures, such as grievances or disciplinaries, as these are still the default option for most companies when faced with issues that arise. These processes will almost always require an initial investigation and entail outcomes that may be the subject of appeal within the organisation or even result in litigation. The ‘hidden’ cost of these processes in terms of management and HR time is difficult to calculate, but is truly staggering.


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The CIPD Conflict Management survey report in 2011 indicated that managing a single workplace grievance takes an average of seven days of HR and management time. Many people reading this article will think that is probably an underestimate when the time of everyone involved is actually added up. The ‘hidden’ costs of workplace disputes include, but are certainly not limited to:


1. Time spent by management investigating and dealing with grievance/disciplinary issues and any resulting appeals. This will commonly involve:


a. Staff concerned with or affected by the issues in question; b. Gathering and considering other evidence;


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c. Identifying and freeing up appropriate persons to hear grievances/disciplinaries and any relevant appeals;


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