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The Power of Compassionate Mediation: Restoring Trust and Productivity in the Workplace

PeopleSense by Altius understands how personal challenges can significantly impact workplace dynamics. Whether it’s a health crisis, family issues, or emotional struggles, these challenges often spill over into our professional lives.

In this article, we look at a real-life scenario (names and company changed for confidentiality) where mediation played an important role in de-escalating conflict, restoring trust, and ultimately enhancing productivity.

The Case of Sam and Alex: A Tale of Compassion and Conflict

The Parties

  1. Sam: A highly skilled baker with 15 years of experience at BakerZZZ.
  2. Alex: Sam’s people manager, with a collaborative history spanning 5 years.

The Challenge

Sam faced an unimaginable personal crisis:

Sam’s mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer, with only 2 months left to live.

Desperate to spend precious moments with her, Sam requested every Thursday off. Alex, empathetic and supportive, championed Sam’s cause and approached HR to accommodate this heart-wrenching situation.

However, business realities collided with compassion. Due to regulatory constraints and risk management considerations, HR denied Sam’s request for dedicated time off. Instead, they recommended that Sam accumulate time in lieu. Alex, as the bearer of this disappointing news, found himself caught between empathy and organisational constraints.

The Conflict Unfolds

Sam’s emotional response was intense. He felt let down, believing that Alex hadn’t fought hard enough for him. Trust eroded, and the once-solid relationship between manager and employee strained under the weight of unmet expectations.

Recognising the urgency, HR suggested mediation to bridge the gap, restore trust, and find a solution that honoured both Sam’s personal struggle and the company’s operational needs.

According to Conflict In The Workplace Statistics research, “49% of workplace conflicts are caused by poor communication,” highlighting the critical role of effective dialogue in conflict resolution. By facilitating active listening and encouraging empathy, mediation enables participants to see beyond their differences and find common ground.

The Mediation Process

  1. Clarifying the Unsaid
    In the mediation session, Sam and Alex had a safe space to express their feelings openly. Sam revealed his fear of losing precious moments with his mother, while Alex shared the organisational constraints he faced.

  2. Compassion and Understanding
    Mediation encouraged empathy. Sam realised that Alex wasn’t the enemy; he was navigating a complex system. Alex, in turn, understood the depth of Sam’s pain and regretted being the bearer of bad news.

  3. Rebuilding Trust
    By acknowledging each other’s perspectives, Sam and Alex rebuilt trust. Sam recognised that Alex genuinely cared, even if he couldn’t change the outcome. Alex vowed to advocate better for employees facing personal crises.

The Outcome

  1. Valuable Relationship Restored
    Sam and Alex emerged from mediation with a renewed understanding. Their relationship, once strained, transformed into a partnership built on empathy and shared goals.
  1. Increased Engagement
    Sam felt heard and valued. His engagement levels soared as he channelled his emotions into his work.
  1. Productivity Reclaimed
    With trust restored, Sam’s productivity rebounded. He focused on quality baking, knowing that Alex had his back.

CPP Global research shows that organisations with effective conflict resolution processes boost profitability by 22%, highlighting the practical benefits of promoting a peaceful work environment. By resolving their conflict, Sam and Alex not only restored trust between themselves, but also set a precedent for constructive problem-solving within their team.

The Power of Compassionate Mediation

During this mediation, Alex and Sam learned to consider the perspectives of others before passing judgement and learnt practical strategies to improve clarity and communication.

They re-established genuine trust and planned to meet informally over coffee in the future to discuss any emergent personal concerns that need each other's assistance. Alex and Sam were both happy to solve this conflict, and they have since enjoyed working productively together again.

In the workplace, personal challenges are inevitable. But when handled with compassion and open communication, they need not lead to conflict. Mediation isn’t just about resolving disputes; it’s about restoring humanity to our interactions. Sam and Alex’s story reminds us that sometimes, the best solutions emerge from understanding, not confrontation.

This article was written by Bruno Zadeh, an Accredited Mediation NMAS at PeopleSense by Altius.

If you would like to know more about Mediation solutions, please submit your enquiry here. Our Accredited NMAS experts will contact you.

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