Must you always conduct an investigation in workplace complaint matters?

The short answer is… no.

But there’s always a but! And there are many variables to consider. If you’re a Governance or Human Resources leader there are options without immediately jumping into a costly and time consuming investigation. One of those options is mediation.

Mediation (part of what’s referred to as Alternative Dispute Resolution – ADR) can be an important consideration in the governance, complaints and workplace investigation space.

But what exactly is it? And why would you consider ADR?

Mediation is a process where a trained and accredited (hint: don’t engage outside of this!) person assists people in conflict negotiate a mutually accepted agreement. Specialist communication and process driven processes are employed to reach agreement on future activities to move forward. Importantly, the parties to the mediation control the outcome.

Unlike court, tribunals, and arbitration, no one imposes a solution on a party. If the parties do not agree to the plan moving forward, the dispute remains unresolved. A formal evidence-based investigation may be needed.

But if the problem or dispute requires an outcome focus (read about the difference between outcome focused and evidence based here), mediation could be an effective strategy.

Mediation can be an option to address a complaint or dispute without the need for a formal investigation or process. It can also be used to address matters before they get out of hand. Of course, there are many issues that would fall outside of mediation, and it’s best to get the right advice from the start.

And, like any process relating to workplace complaints, it must be trauma informed and victim-centred (read about these concepts here).

The advantages of mediation (if appropriate) are:

  • It’s a quicker process than a formal investigation
  • It’s significantly cheaper
  • There is minimal psychological impact on participants (both those directly involved and any potential witnesses)
  • It puts the power of resolution on the parties themselves
  • It can address underlying issues, often a factor observed in many workplace complaints and disputes
  • It shows a real attempt to address concerns and move forward with an agreed plan (it allows participants to be heard effectively)

What mediation is not:

  • It’s not a legal or binding process
  • Suitable unless all affected parties agree to both the concept and the process
  • Used in performance or conduct management as a tool
  • Suitable in investigations where the likely outcome is a reviewable action (i.e dismissal)

The Forensix Group have trained and experienced Mediators to assist parties in dispute. It’s important to get advice early and have the problem assessed. Contact us for a no obligation chat and proposal to assist your needs.

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