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Julie McAuliffe Mediation

Julie McAuliffe / Moving On     9/5/05
Julie’s background is in counselling in grief and loss; family mediation; interpersonal disputes in the workplace; she teaches mediation in UCD; she also trains designated contact people in the workplace. In this she teaches DCPs about the law in relation to bullying, policies, and how to listen to, and work with both the complainant and the complained against.
She experienced trauma herself a few years ago, and believes that human beings have the ability to recover from trauma small or large.
Mediation in the workplace
Mediators who work with organisations work hard to ensure that mediation is being offered as a conflict positive option and not to cover deeper organisational conflict.
A mediator’s first guiding principle is to do no harm. The process is designed to ensure personal safety for all who engage in it.
Conflict is a problem for organisations. Managers are sometimes expected to manage complex interpersonal conflict without training, without the time spent on building skills in this area. Sometimes there is a reluctance to bring in an outsider, as the organisation can feel that an outsider may not have their best interests at heart.
Generally everyone involved in conflict wants it to stop, to be resolved. Managers are no different in this to anyone else.
However this is not what a mediator has to offer an organisation. Mediators will not promise to deliver a solution, because their first duty is to the disputants. A core principle of mediation is empowerment, which means that the disputants make the decisions about what solutions work for them or not whichever the case may be. The mediator wants a solution that works for both parties.
A space is created in which they can meet and talk, and hear each other, look at options, problem-solve together, and hopefully reach agreement if this is the best course for both people.
Commercial and industrial relation mediators are often agreement focused, or settlement driven. In the United States where copious research has been conducted on mediation in high conflict cases, disputants have found this method of working very satisfactory. However if the dispute is really about the interpersonal relationship i.e. “how we get on or not” then a more facilitative style where people can hear and understand each other’s perspective can be appropriate and effective.
The process
The mediator schedules at least one day to see and work with disputants
Each disputant is met on his or her own first (mediators vary on this) to explain the role of mediation, the mediation process, and to hear from the disputant’s point of view what the conflict is about. At this point a mediator will assess suitability to proceed. Mediation will not go forward if there is any danger to either party, either physically or psychologically, or if either party is unable to negotiate and reach decisions.
The mediator will then assess what is the next best step. Facilitating joint meetings or shuttle mediation, which involves each disputant being in a separate room and the mediator works between rooms. Mediators tend to prefer to have people work in the same room where possible as hearing the others point of view and the impact the conflict is having is often what moves things on for people. However if there is fear, or if one has experienced intimidation, it may be more beneficial to work in two separate rooms.
Mediation promises confidentiality within limits (i.e. not when someone is in danger) Information that leaves the mediation room is negotiated and agreed between parties. All other written work is destroyed. What usually happens is that parties agree to simply say they attended mediation and reached an agreement or not. Except perhaps if disputants were gaining clarity on duties in relation to a particular role, then the management would expect to have a copy of what they each agreed to.
A Question an employee might ask?
I am concerned that you are not totally independent because the company is paying you.”
A mediator has expertise in conflict management, and works hard at staying in their role as an impartial facilitator to the conflict. Of course if a mediator has a good track record of resolving disputes to the organisation’s satisfaction, it may be that they will get more work. However, a cobbled together agreement is not a lasting solution, and   as all mediators know, within it are the seeds of another conflict waiting to erupt. What mediators are interested in are lasting solutions that cannot easily be unravelled, because people have gone to the effort of putting the time and energy into finding genuine solutions.
 In some cases a mediator might want to be biased, but are trained not to be. The mediator is not there to reach a judgment, to establish right or wrong. They are there to get the parties back to working together. What is important is to get the parties talking and listening, hopefully reaching resolution.
If either party wishes to have support in the process this can be arranged, union officials/ solicitors/ support people can participate in the process or as outside experts who are consulted.
When we are treated badly, it often helps to have someone who will help us to gain clarity about what it is we want to say, who will stay with us while we work it out, and figure out what exactly what it is we want to say, or perhaps more importantly what we want the other person to hear. This is similar to what designated contact people (DCP) do, but mediators will also do this either at the start in private session, or throughout the process. When we describe to the mediator what happened and the impact it had on us, the other person has to hear what we are saying, and indeed it gives us a chance to hear their view of things and the impact all of this has had on them. When people are accused of bullying they react in a number of ways often in anger but also in fear. The accusation alone may damage their good name, put their job / career prospects at risk, hence their livelihood and their family’s welfare. The impact of this may be what the complained against wants to talk about in addition to the conflict, and the impact their behaviour had on you, and perhaps your behaviour had on them.
Mediation is not appropriate where the unacceptable behaviour is severe, chronic, or where one person targets another for abusive treatment. Both people in the room have got to be able to work together in a non-abusive way.
 We do not have research on mediation and bullying in Ireland yet. Hearsay from people working in this field is that there are many cases where mediation has been effective in bullying situations, and that organisations are becoming more conflict conscious and do genuinely want to create solutions that work for their staff.
Getting to Yes Fisher and Ury ISBN 0099517302
Getting Past NoFisher and Ury ISBN 0712655239
- from the Harvard school of Negotiation, easy to find in any bookshop. They teach how to negotiate well and manage conflict when there is something substantial to negotiate.
Feedback from the meeting; -
I thought Julie was very good.
She is aware of the deficiencies in the law and of using mediation with respect to bullying in the absence of any effective legislation.
Good to read Julie's message
It was a very good meeting.  Very glad to get Julie's email. We will probably discuss on Mon.
Email from Julie MacAuliffe after the Moving On meeting of Mon 9th May 05
Hi Adrienne,
I would be delighted if anyone wishes to contact me, either on a personal basis or to speak to their organisation.
 e mail is
Telephone 01/4903547
I enjoyed meeting your group last night. The name of the books on negotiation I mentioned were-Getting to Yes, and Getting past No. Both books are by Fisher and Ury, from the Harvard school of Negotiation, easy to find in any bookshop. They teach how to manage conflict when there is something substantial to negotiate. Both books are good for dealing with practical negotiations, and for separating the people from the problem.
The organisation in Ireland for professional mediators is the Mediators Institute of Ireland. It is easy to locate on the web.
The following are a list of people I know personally, who are experienced and whom I would have no hesitation in recommending:
Delma Sweeney ( Director of Masters in mediation, UCD, also can be contacted at C.R.M.C. yellow pages)
Audery Carroll
Geoffry Corry    
Fiona McAulsun
Polly Phillmore
Shelia Healy
Ger Sweeney
Joe (Commercial mediator and arbitrator)
Trasa Kenny who works with organisations to help them become conflict positive, and Niamh Cunningham who works in bullying cases and restorative justice both can be contacted via the Mediators Institute Ireland.
Ann Doran
Suin Karney
Jim Sykes (also Galway)
Lyle McElderry (Athlone)
Magella Foley Freel
There is a group of MII mediators in Westport, I cannot remember all their names right now, Raphiel is one, but Ann in the MII will put you in touch.
From listening to you group last evening it seems to me that one thing that might be useful to you is an opportunity to talk through the whole issue with an experienced person who has the skills to listen to you, and support you as you work through what your best options are. This would be the first piece of work a mediator completes, however should you wish to do this prior to (or not at all) engaging in mediation with the other party, a mediator may be just the right person.
This is similar to what a Designated Contact Person should do. If this is something any of you might find helpful, contact any of us and explain what it is you are looking for.
I would like to respond to some of the concerns of your group.
It seems as if it should serve two functions
One support for anybody who has been traumatised by workplace bullying
Two, there seems to be a drive to change the situation for others.
So there is a desire for practical change in the external environment, i.e. a significant change in the Law to protect people, and make organisations accountable, and a greater awareness of the seriousness of the damage that occurs as a result of bullying, particularly the long term effects.
In terms of personal support for yourselves, my sense is that you are saying that your group is helpful, it is good to talk share information and support one another but that on a personal level this is not enough, it is still all going around in your head.
From my own background my understanding of what should help is
* Support, in a group form, from counselling, from the general community.
    The difficulty as I see it is lack of knowledge by the general public and from listening to you lack of appropriate understanding and skills from some professionals particularly legal people, perhaps mediators also.
 You did not mention the quality of counselling, but attending a counsellor with expertise in this area should help.
In family law there is a new type of lawyer called a collaborative lawyer. It is a distinct step away from adversarial methods; C.L.’s are interested in working in collaborative ways, and in taking into account the effect of conflict on the person. I am not sure if this is also the case in employment law. There is a commercial mediator Karen Erwin who is a collaborative lawyer, if any of you wish to hear more about this get back to me, or contact her through the MII
From time to time you might consider having your group professionally facilitated by a counsellor or mediator, as the facilitator would be able to stand outside the situation and that may have of the effect of moving you on, which is what some of you want.
Also you may consider looking at skills and strategies that you could use in some situations.
My understanding of bullying is that there is no one response that works in all situations. The range of behaviours is from mild to psychotic. At the milder end of the scale the people involved can sometimes see the effect their behaviour has on the other person and are willing to change, moving up the scale a bit the person may not care at all if their behaviour damages you, but they may stop if the organisation/law makes life difficult for them if they continue.
This end of the scale personal skills, strategies, interventions have a possibility of working, and where I believe mediation is most appropriate. When the person involved is behaving in a very destructive way then they are not going to collaborate in mediation, because there is nothing for them to gain out of the experience. Stronger protections need to be in place then such as laws and policies, however these are only useful when there is a commitment to implement them. My guess is organisations will only implement them if they are forced to, if it gives them less headaches in the workplace, if it improves productivity, if it saves them money, or if there is a genuine commitment to creating a conflict positive environment, and I do believe that organisations are seeing the benefits of this. But it requires us all working together to inform the public, the government, and our organisations of the real effect, extent, and solution to this issue.
Wishing you well

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