Mediate BC Blog

Workplace Mediation: More than Band-Aids on Wounds

Posted by Walter.Brynjolfson

At the upcoming ADRBC symposium, a distinguished panel comprised mostly of roster mediators will convene to discuss the challenges and opportunities within the field of workplace mediation. The title of their Tuesday afternoon panel is Expand the Potential of Organizational Mediation.

Most notable from their discussion will be an emphasis on a particularly nagging issue: the reality that workplace mediators, especially the private practitioners who are called in “as-needed,” are often limited to the seemingly futile role of putting Band-Aids on gaping wounds.

Conflicts don’t appear in isolation. “There are generally more systemic issues,” says Laraine Ashpole, Mediate BC Roster mediator and chair of the upcoming panel. According to her, the conflicts mediators are brought in to resolve are often just surface issues; and underlying systemic problems tend to put a wrench in the mediation process. As an example, she mentions: “We also find sometimes these aren’t necessarily the right people in the room. The two people in the conflict are there, but the manager isn’t there.”

This frustratingly limited capacity to mediate a real resolution or affect long-term organizational change has led the panelists—Gordon White, Alison Paine, Lori Charvat, and Patricia Vickers—to formulate a toolbox. As much as they appreciate the income generated by putting Band-Aids on wounds, they’d rather see mediators capitalize on their conflict resolution skills to ensure clients see positive, long-lasting change.

What are some of those tools?

Each panelist will provide a unique perspective. Both Alison and Lori have an interest in talking about what they call Complex Adaptive Systems in Leadership. Gordon wants to introduce the concept of Conflict Competent Cultures; and Patricia wants to follow up by offering insights into deeply rooted trauma that affect organizational culture. Practically speaking, panelists will likely give the following advice.

Workplace mediators are encouraged to:

  • Provide recommendations to leadership as part of, or in addition to, the mediation process.
  • Highlight conflict training as a part of their service.
  • Coach HR departments and leadership in developing conflict competent cultures.

The reality is many organizations want a Band-Aid. Even if leadership manages to recognize their own shortfalls, they might hesitate to initiate a seemingly slow and costly process of systemic change; but it never hurts to ask. That’s why one of the recommendations from the panel is simply to ask clients: are these themes you would like to explore?

For more information about the panel, or to sign up for the ADRBC Symposium, visit the symposium web page. Mediate BC roster mediators receive a discount, and early bird rate ends May 5.


About the Panelists

Laraine Ashpole, Panel Chair

Employer’s Advisor for the Ministry of Labour, as well as a mediator, consultant, and trainer for businesses.

Gordon White

Mediator for over 20 years. His experience encompasses the completion of over 500 cases including a wide range of workplace issues, multi-party meetings, lawsuits, family issues, and community disputes. 

Alison Paine

Mediator, Conflict Coach and Conflict Management Consultant in private practice. As the former Assistant Deputy Minister of Talent Management for the Government of British Columbia she established an all-new way of dealing with conflict for the public service workplace.

Lori Charvat

Workplace mediator, conflict coach, and Board Chair of Mediate BC. Lori helps people and organizations work through conflict and change to co-create socially just, collaborative and productive work teams.

Dr. Patricia Vickers

Teacher, artist, psychotherapist and spiritual director. Her approach to all services comes from the Northwest Coast Feast Hall, Buddhist teachings, and the teachings of Christ and is founded on a relationship with self, the Supernatural and others.



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