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In general, children are discouraged from tattling on other children. Parents do not want children to run to them every time another child does something he or she perceives as wrong. The reason for this is to teach the children:

  1. Not to be moral judge and jury of other children.
  2. To communicate with their peers.
  3. To resolve issues between the two parties.
  4. To find ways that to make both parties happy; in short: negotiate.

When the situation cannot be worked out between the two children, parents will intervene.

The same rules apply to adults. Adults should try to resolve issues between each other directly. However, there are times when issues just cannot be resolved between two parties.

A third-party mediator is needed when all attempts to work directly with the other party have failed, regardless of whether the barrier to resolution is caused by:

  1. A personality conflict.
  2. An abuse of power.
  3. Selfishness.
  4. A difficult personality.
  5. Any other situation in which the two parties are unable to find a win-win solution.

Choosing a Mediator

Before confronting a person that you know will be challenging to communicate with, one should research what the company's policies and procedures regarding conflict are, and whether there is a channel for mediation.

A mediator may be:

  1. A peer or colleague.
  2. A supervisor.
  3. An external third party.
  4. The organization's trained mediator, often located in one of these:
    1. Human Resources Department.
    2. Ethics Department.
    3. Ombudsman Program.

Formal mediators are trained to handle difficult situations. Mediators are trained to:

  1. Be neutral and impartial.
  2. Keep all things said in confidentiality.
  3. Provide a safe environment.
  4. Help check emotions and reduce outbursts in the conversations.
  5. Facilitate discussions toward resolution without detrimentally impacting personnel records.
  6. Help identify and reframe issues.
  7. Provide a resources such as:
    1. Applicable policies and procedures.
    2. A list of counselors.
    3. Educational information on communication.
    4. Other resources, as needed.

Many organizations have no official form of mediation. In organizations that do not provide mediators, a colleague may be able to do the mediation. This person should:

  1. Be agreed upon by the two parties.
  2. Strive to remain neutral.
  3. Be able to facilitate discussions.
  4. Put out every effort to keep communication open.
  5. Not be decision makers.