Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The people sent in to fix toxic office relationships


This was an interesting article to be interviewed for. Many thanks, Lennox Morrison of the BBC!

Mediation Awareness Week 2016


We had a great time at the CIArb event in High Wycombe this evening, presenting a role-play and commentary on mediation, how it works and its benefits. The audience was mostly very inexperienced in mediation, yes there are still such people! The feedback was great. Thanks team – Sue O’Brein, David Evans, Ruth Allington and Martin Havelock.

The Court of Appeal panel of mediators


Felicity Steadman has been appointed by CEDR as a mediator in The Court of Appeal in the UK. The Court sits in London at the Royal Courts of Justice. It consists of two divisions:

– The Civil Division, which hears appeals from:

– the three divisions of the High Court (Chancery, Queen’s Bench and Family Division)

– the County Courts across England and Wales,

– certain Tribunals such as the Employment Appeal Tribunal, the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, the Lands Tribunal and the Social Security Commissioners.

– The Criminal Division, which hears appeals from the Crown Court.

The Court of Appeal is the highest court within the Senior Courts, which also includes the High Court and Crown Court. The Court of Appeal normally sits in up to 12 courts in the Royal Courts of Justice.

The Court of Appeal launched a pilot scheme in 2012 to encourage the mediation of cases referred to the Court. Mediation in the Court of Appeal applies to all personal injury and contract claims up to the value of £100,000 (£250k from April 2013) for which permission to appeal is sought and obtained (or adjourned). Unless a judge exceptionally directs otherwise, these cases are automatically referred to CEDR who administer a voluntary mediation service on the Courts behalf.

Rebuilding relationships through dialogue


“How do you restore broken relationships if parties are kept in separate rooms during the mediation?” I recall a colleague asking me some years ago when I described the typical mediation process used in commercial mediation. She certainly made me think about my practice, which increasingly involves mediating workplace disputes where employees have fallen out for one reason or another but the relationship is likely to be ongoing. Keeping people talking directly to one another in  a joint meeting can be very challenging for the mediator and the parties. If the mediator is equipped with the right skills and is clear about the purpose of the meeting, and the parties know before hand what process to expect and can prepare for this, facilitating a dialogue directly between the parties can be hugely effective in resolving conflict and rebuilding relationships.

What is your style?


I was recently asked to describe my style as a mediator. I found myself reading up about what Riskin has to say about mediator style and wondering whether I am facilitative or evaluative, broadly or narrowly??

I can confidently say that I am facilitative, but whether I am broadly or narrowly facilitative will depend on the circumstances of the case.  

I aim to assist parties define, understand and resolve the problems that they wish to address by focusing on underlying interests rather than legal positions and issues. I encourage parties to explore the personal interests and perceptions in their dispute, not just the commercial and legal dimensions. I will generally not express a view on the strengths or weaknesses of a party’s case, or give a view on the options for settlement; rather I will encourage the representatives to do this. I find it helpful to have lawyers and other representatives present in mediation.

 I like to work with parties in joint session for as long as possible because I find that this creates an opportunity for parties to hear directly from one another about what is important to them. In my experience mediators can achieve a lot through careful, flexible management of process, so I take a great deal of care when setting up mediations and talking to parties before the mediation day; I work flexibly on the day; and I always follow up with parties after mediations to hear how things are working for them.

Feedback that I have had from parties indicates that they feel supported by me through the process. My neutrality and impartiality has never been questioned. Parties comment that I establish good rapport with them and that they feel they can be open, show emotions and reveal fears and concerns. I belive that I am able to do this in mediations where I am working with a more narrowly facilitative style , the typical employment and commercial mediation, as well as in mediations where I work with a broader definition of the problem, the typical workplace or interpersonal type mediation.

I don’t see the point of mediation!


Feedback from a party following  a recent mediation prompts me to write this. He said:

“Thank you for the follow-up. I think a lot of issues were discussed at the meeting, which was helpful, and a lot of comments were made which were a surprise to me I must say. Things have settled down and hopefully it will continue.  I believe that our meeting was helpful and I thought that you were an excellent mediator.”

Besides the nice pat on the back to me as mediator, I was struck by the party’s observation that he had been surprised by many of the comments made. In this mediation the parties’ relationship had deteriorated after one had been appointed as senior to the other. They needed to work together and the company valued both employees.  The conversation between the parties in the mediation was quite charged, by the end they had reached agreement on a range of things. More importantly they had spoken to one another and said things and heard things that they had not said or heard before.

So the point of mediation is not just settling a dispute, but it is also about engagement between the parties about their relationship and how they interact as employees and as human beings!

VIVA mediation!

Mediator as coach


I received this pleasing feedback recently after a workplace mediation:

“I wanted to thank you for your help in facilitating the meeting today and (for your) guidance along the way. Your intervention at crucial moments in the meeting helped us keep on track and maintain a clear focus on reaching an outcome that we are all happy with. Whilst these situations are never enjoyable, I certainly feel it was a productive meeting and allowed us to reach closure of the situation and move forwards.”

The comment about providing ‘guidance along the way’ reminded me of the role that mediators play as coaches to parties.

Throughout the mediation process the mediator has opportunities to coach the parties and their advisers, while strictly preserving neutrality and confidentiality. The purpose of the coaching is to enable all parties to participate as fully and effectively as possible. The mediator coaches directly, through sharing experience, making process suggestions and managing the parties’ expectations; and indirectly, through setting the tone, maintaining the energy and purpose and leading by example in terms of attitude and approach.

In this mediation I was aware that the parties found my guidance at the pre-mediation stage helpful. I talked to them individually about who should start and why, and about how to present their opening statements. We also discussed their concerns about confidentiality and I made process suggestions about how these concerns might be addressed.  By the joint meeting I had established good rapport and trust and was able to be both supportive and challenging in my questioning and feedback.

Effective conflict management through mediation


Felicity is a full-time professional in dispute resolution based in Oxford UK. She has this to say about the work she does:

“I have worked as mediator for 20 years and I believe passionately that conflict is most effectively resolved through consensus building processes such as negotiation and mediation. Simpler processes such as joint problem solving and encouraging people to simply talk to one another about things that are causing tensions are equaly important. In fact the sooner and the more informaly you can work on conflict the better.

One of the most important benefits of consensus building is that the outcome of the conflict is in the hands of the parties. As soon as the outcome moves into the hands of an investigator, arbitrator or judge it is inclined to result in one person winning and the other losing. Win-lose outcomes are hardly ever good in the long term, especially not where relationships are on-going.”