As well as credibility, trustworthiness and communication skills, a mediator must enjoy outsider status – the sheer fact of being a neutral observer brings a new dimension to workplace conflicts.
I once had to perform some shuttle-diplomacy in a big electronics factory, where there was a dreadful atmosphere that hit you the moment you walked in. All I had to do was repeat word-for-word the terms of one particular deal that had been rejected outright when spoken by the original negotiator.
When spoken by a total stranger – me – it was listened-to properly for the first time, and promptly accepted, subject to a tiny face-saving condition.
This reminds you of the irrational nature of workplace dialogue, and the value of mediation as a lubricant which can bring the perception of a grievance back into proportion.
You really do need the non-judgmental outsider who is not going to apportion blame and who will remain neurtal and objective.
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