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What are Typical Organizational Experiences with Mediation?

Mediation keeps the solutions with the people who best know the problem and allows the disputants to resolve the problem themselves, rather than having other offices or a judge decide it for them.

Early Use of Mediation Enhanced the Potential for Resolving the Dispute

As time drags on without a resolution, people tend to "dig in their heels" and fight for their position rather than work to achieve mutual agreement. Accordingly, most advise that mediation should be attempted as soon after the dispute arises as practicable. The following comments were typical of expressing the relationship between the timing of mediation attempts and the success of the mediation in resolving the dispute:

  • "The parties should mediate as soon as possible. Do not wait to see if a formal complaint will be filed."
  • "Both parties agree face-to-face discussion is very effective and it should have happened in the beginning."
  • "Should have attempted mediation sooner --both sides became more determined to win with each passing day."
  • "This case had progressed too far before it came to mediation (in time and substance). The parties had become so polarized in their positions and distrust had grown to the extent that mediation was not a viable method."

ADR Procedures Help Overcome Disputes Arising from Poor Communication

Often, one or both of the parties need a flexible process and skillful neutral to bring out what's bothering him/her. Other times, people just need to take time out of their busy schedules to sit down and talk with one another away from the distractions and stresses of the workplace. As the following comments indicate, poor communication skills are often the root of many disputes:

  • "Mediation opened lines of communication between employee and supervisor."
  • "Most conflict was the result of miscommunication or lack of communication."
  • "Both parties felt process enabled them to discuss concerns and both would consider this route again."
  • "Issue could have been resolved outside of the EEO process."
  • "Good case for mediation. Supervisor explained selection criteria which was all the non-selectee needed."

Not All Cases Result in Successful Settlements

Even the strongest advocates for mediation acknowledge that mediation will not be able to resolve all disputes:

  • "Mediation does not work if the dialogue with management is not there."
  • "Settlement reached but didn't get to the heart of the problem -- personality conflict. They're back in EEO."
  • "Parties did not come to the table with a "good faith" effort to negotiate. Urge that parties be briefed on the nature of negotiations and the need to be willing to adjust positions."
  • "Not all individuals are willing to resolve an issue even though the opportunity is given to them. Sometimes people are not rational in their perspective."