Case Study One – Corporate HR Mediation

Key Stakeholders and their Higher Level Interests:

  • Long-serving IT specialist
    • Has detailed knowledge of the systems he has developed over the years but has historically failed to produce appropriate documentation for many of them.
    • Feels embittered by his treatment
    • Believes he is being set up to fail
  • Line Manager
    • Knows she was the first manager to attempt to discipline the specialist for a number of perceived performance shortfalls, despite these problems being recognised by previous managers
    • Feels let down and unsupported by the business
    • Believes that the employee will sabotage any attempt to reintegrate
  • HR Director
    • Despite being very experienced, a number of mediation sessions he’s led have not moved the situation forward.

The situation was deadlocked. An employee was found to have been unfairly dismissed following his second appeal to an internal review. However, he refuses to report to the same manager and suggests redundancy as a compromise. His line manager does not want him back, regarding the reinstatement as the result of wriggling through a technical loophole. Also, for a number of reasons, it is not possible to transfer him to another manager, and the organisation wants to avoid setting any kind of precedent by having to provide a large redundancy settlement in a situation of this kind.

Several attempts at mediation had been made prior to our intervention but with no resolution.

Private one-to-one interviews (approximately one hour each) were conducted with each of the stakeholders. These clearly demonstrated the high emotional charge being experienced in different ways by all parties. These discussions suggested that no-one had ‘right’ on their side and, with the advantage of hindsight, all could have done things differently at various times.

Applying the model to the information gleaned from the interviews suggested that the breakthrough point was in the area of ‘hurt’. In other words, whatever the eventual solution became, both manager and employee would have to feel that their hurt had been recognised and mitigated somehow.

The Outcome:

Separate individual meetings were then held with the manager and the specialist during which the sensitive subject of deep personal hurt was discussed. Then, using a combination of approaches, it became possible to get each party to recognise that, although very different, the degree of hurt being felt on each side was equivalent. This enabled a joint meeting to be held where these feelings were made overt by the facilitator and an agreement based on mutual recognition

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