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Informal Mediation

Employees have different backgrounds, experiences, and work styles, so it's natural that they aren’t always going to see eye-to-eye. Most of the time, employees can resolve conflicts on their own, or with the help of a supervisor. But, if conflict continues, it can be helpful to bring an impartial person into the conversation – a mediator.

HR’s informal, voluntary, and confidential mediation program, "Point of View," helps employees resolve workplace conflicts and strengthen workplace relationships. Informal mediation is really just a conversation. The mediator facilitates the conversation, making sure each employee has a chance to share his or her perspective. With the help of the mediators, employees brainstorm possible solutions, and if they make decisions about how to move forward, the mediators create a written summary. Informal mediation can help improve communication, clear up misunderstandings, and result in solutions that meet everyone’s needs.

If you are interested in learning more about "Point of View," contact us at (520) 626-0850 or pointofview@email.arizona.edu.

Key Elements of Informal Mediation 

  • University Mediators – All mediators are UA faculty, appointed professionals, or classified staff who have received mediation training.
  • Informal – Mediation is similar to a conversation. The mediators simply help the conversation stay civil and helps the participants craft a solution to their conflict.
  • Voluntary – No one can be compelled to participate in mediation or agree to a particular solution.
  • Impartial – Mediators are not judges or arbitrators who make decisions or recommendations. In informal mediation, people come up with their own solutions to resolve conflict.
  • Confidential – Confidentiality is maintained unless there is a threat of harm to self or others or allegations or discrimination.

What is Informal Mediation?

During informal mediation, an impartial mediator (i.e., someone with no stake in the issue) sits down with people experiencing conflict and helps them come up with solutions. With the help of the mediator, each person gets to share his or her “point of view” uninterrupted. The mediator doesn’t decide who is right or wrong; instead, the mediator helps people understand what’s behind the conflict and brainstorm options to solve it. If the participants are able to come up with their own solutions to the conflict, the mediator helps draft a written summary, a copy of which each participant receives.

The UA uses a co-mediation model, with a mediator from HR and a volunteer mediator from the campus community. The mediators reflect the diversity of the University, with mediators who are faculty, appointed professionals, and classified staff. All of the mediators have participated in mediation training.

Informal mediation is a voluntary process. For the mediation to take place, all employees must agree to participate. Supervisors can’t require their employees to participate in informal mediation.

If an employee is interested in informal mediation, he or she will speak to the Point of View Program Manager about the situation. If the situation is eligible for informal mediation, the Program Manager will contact the other employee(s) involved and ask if they are willing to participate. If everyone is willing to participate, the Program Manager will schedule the informal mediation and assign mediators.

Mediation is confidential, with a couple of exceptions. If an employee alleges that another University employee has discriminated against him or her, the mediators are required to report that information to the Office of Institutional Equity. Additionally, if a mediator believes there is the potential for harm to self or others, the mediator must report that information.

Before participating in informal mediation, employees must sign an Agreement to Participate in Informal Mediation. As part of this agreement, employees agree to maintain confidentiality of information shared during the mediation process.

Example issues that are eligible for mediation

  • Disagreements have arisen between project team members due to differing work styles.
  • An employee would like a flexible work schedule, but his supervisor has not been open to the idea.
  • A supervisor values a long-term employee’s work, but is having a difficult time getting the employee’s buy-in regarding organizational changes.
  • Two faculty members are no longer speaking because of conflict over a potential merger.
  • Two employees were friends, but things have become tense since once became the other’s supervisor.

Example issues not eligible for mediation

  • Workplace Violence
  • Discrimination Complaints
  • Involuntary Terminations
  • Compensation
  • Promotion and Tenure
  • Active lawsuits or complaints against the University.
  • Complaints filed with the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) or under UHAP 6.02 or the Staff Dispute Resolution Procedure.

The above lists are not exclusive. Please consult the "Point of View" Program Manager at (520) 626-0850 or pointofview@email.arizona.edu to determine if informal mediation is an option.

For more information, please consult our frequently asked questions.


Mediators

  • Lissette Calderón, Academic Affairs Coordinator, College of Law
  • Sumayya Granger, Assistant Director of Academic Support, Center for English as a Second Language
  • Michael Greeley, Senior Academic Advisor, School of Government and Public Policy
  • Bruce Grissom, Administrative Manager, SAEM/AISS
  • Pam Jones, Director, Human Resources at University of Arizona Health Sciences
  • Josie Kelly, Consultant HR Organizational, Human Resources
  • Pila Martinez, Senior Director, University Relations – Communications
  • Millay McAndrew, Senior Consultant, Compliance, Office of Institutional Equity
  • Martin McColl, Senior Staff Engineer, Steward Observatory
  • Celina Ramirez, Associate Director, Disability Resource Center
  • Mark Trommer, Senior Consultant, Organizational, Human Resources

For more information about mediation and conflict resolution, we recommend the following articles and books:

Articles

In Praise of Mediation: Keeping the Peace in the Workplace

Workplace Mediation: Pros and Cons

Books

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Roger Fisher, William L. Ury and Bruce Patton

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall Rosenberg and Arun Gandhi

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

The Essential Guide to Workplace Mediation and Conflict Resolution: Rebuilding Working Relationships, Nora Doherty and Marcelas Guyler

FAQs

Informal Mediation Questions

Who can participate in informal mediation?

"Point of View," HR’s informal mediation program is available to all University employees, including non-benefits eligible employees and undergraduate and graduate student employees.

Who are the mediators?

The mediators are HR employees and University faculty, appointed professionals, and classified staff who have received mediation training.

Is the mediator going to make a decision about who is “right”?

No. The mediator will not take sides or act like a judge and make a determination about who is “right.” The mediator may explain University policies or procedures, but will do so from an objective perspective.

Can I be required to participate in informal mediation?

No. In order for informal mediation to take place, everyone must voluntarily agree to participate. Supervisors can refer employees to learn more information the program, but may not require employees to participate.

Is informal mediation confidential?

Yes, with two exceptions. Mediators must report allegations of discrimination and potential threats of harm to self or others.

About how long does a mediation session last?

A typical mediation session is 1-3 hours, depending on how complicated the issue is.

Where do the mediation sessions take place?

Most mediation sessions with take place in the University Services Building, where the main campus HR offices are located, or in a conference room at UAHS. If preferred, you can request a different location and HR can try to accommodate the request.

Do I need to bring anything to informal mediation?

No. You are not required to bring anything to mediation. The mediator will provide paper and pens for you to takes notes, but will ask that you turn the notes in to the mediator at the end of the session to help maintain confidentiality.

What will happen when I arrive for the mediation session?

First, the mediators will explain the process and ground rules for the session. Then, each participant will have the opportunity to express his or her perspective uninterrupted. The mediators will summarize what they hear to make sure they fully understand and ask clarifying questions. Next, the mediators will facilitate a conversation to identify each participant’s needs and interests. The mediators will then help the participants brainstorm possible solutions that will meet the participants’ needs and interests. If the participants agree on solutions, the mediators will summarize the agreements on a template form and provide a copy to each participant.

What are some examples of situations that employees might talk about during informal mediation?

  • Two faculty members are not on speaking terms because one faculty member believes the other faculty member said something disrespectful about her. Their lack of communication is impacting their ability to accomplish committee work and is creating tension in the rest of their department.
  • A newer employee has ideas about how to make the office more efficient. He has tried to raise his ideas with his supervisor, but his supervisor is extremely busy and tends to cut him off before he can explain. The employee has enjoyed working at the University, but does not feel valued and is seriously thinking about finding another job.

What happens if we can’t agree to anything during the mediation session?

If you and the other participant(s) aren’t able to come to any agreements during the mediation session, that’s OK. Our hope is that you’ll still find it beneficial to express your perspective and better understand the perspective of your colleague(s).

Are there situations that are not eligible for informal mediation?

Yes. Informal mediation will not be available in certain situations, at the discretion of HR, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Workplace Violence
  • Discrimination Complaints
  • Involuntary Terminations
  • Compensation
  • Promotion and Tenure
  • Active lawsuits or complaints against the University.
  • Complaints filed with the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) or under UHAP 6.02 or the Staff Dispute Resolution Procedure.

What is the difference between arbitration and mediation?

An arbitrator is similar to a judge. During arbitration, the arbitrator listens to testimony and reviews exhibits before making a decision about the case. During mediation, it is always up to the participants to decide if they want to commit to any agreements. The mediator never decides who is right or wrong or what the participants should do.

Who can I contact for more information?

Please contact the "Point of View" Program Manager at (520) 626-0850 or pointofview@email.arizona.edu.


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