Mediators don’t bring Cockroaches!

Author: Paula Drouin, Founder and President of ADR International Group Inc., February 4th, 2015

This may seem like an unusual title for a blog but it could help other Mediators who find themselves accused of manufacturing issues that didn’t previously exist.

Have you ever conducted a conflict assessment and had a sense that you were suspected of creating issues that didn’t actually exist before your arrival on the scene? If your answer to that question is no then you are either very lucky, very talented, or you have only conducted one workplace conflict assessment and it was within an organization that had no buried conflicts.

My example happened more than 10 years ago but it has stuck with me. I had been contracted to conduct an extensive workplace conflict assessment that included more than 40 people.  It was within an organization that was experiencing an increase in grievances from a large work unit.  Any of you who conduct these types of assessments know how important it is to report the findings in a way that does not identify who said what.  When I was delivering the summary of issues identified during the interviews I was accused of “making some of them up” and of course there is really no way to prove I wasn’t making them up because to do so would violate confidentiality of the interviewees.

I was fortunate to have just read an article, the authors name is lost to me and I wasn’t able to find it or the article during a recent Google search, where the author described the role of mediator as being a person who shines a light on what is otherwise hidden in the dark.  Thankfully that definition popped into my head during the panicked moments before I had to reply so I used the following analogy.  I said something like…… “If a person were to shine a light into an unlit room and several cockroaches appeared, would you think the person with the flashlight put them there?”

The happy ending is that the client did not cancel the contract that day and we went on to do some pretty terrific work together that helped a whole lot of people and the organization.

So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, or being confronted with what is being unearthed through the conflict assessment….REMEMBER…….all you are doing is shining a light on what is otherwise hidden in the dark.  Once it is brought into the light it can be worked through.