Group Facilitation Denver

GROUP FACILITATION AND MEDIATION – A Few Words about Neutrality, Part III

To finish the discussion about mediator neutrality (or impartiality – an equivalent term for purposes of this discussion), I’d like to discuss how a conflict resolution professional might react when his neutrality is challenged during a long-term, multi-party mediation or facilitation. This has happened to me more than once doing environmental/public policy work. These challenges have been made, for the most part, for strategic reasons. Simply withdrawing from the case was never really an option (as one might do for a limited, one-meeting case).

In many complex, multi-party mediations, one or more of the parties are fighting a delaying action and do not want the negotiations to result in a compromise or consensus agreement. They want the other side to lose, pure and simple. If the mediator has to deal with complicating factors (beyond simply managing productive meetings), the process will become more cumbersome, it will slow down and may ultimately stall from its own inertia. One complicating factor is an accusation that the mediator is biased toward one side of the dispute or another. Such an accusation may be made to the other members of the group, to the mediator’s superiors and, perhaps most seriously, to the press. Any mediator who wishes to continue facilitating the group’s discussions must respond effectively to the challenge without actively engaging the party making it.

I’ll start with the challenge to the group. Since I spent several years as a neutral who was paid by County government, parties sometimes charged me with advancing the county planning agenda. The county and I had anticipated this situation by putting me outside the chain of command of the planning […]

By |May 14th, 2015|Group Facilitation Denver|Comments Off on GROUP FACILITATION AND MEDIATION – A Few Words about Neutrality, Part III

GROUP FACILITATION AND MEDIATION – A Few Words about Neutrality, Part II

To continue the discussion about mediator neutrality (or impartiality – an equivalent term for purposes of this discussion), I’d like to now discuss the parties’ perception of a mediator’s neutrality.

It is always important to have an idea of how the parties view you, the mediator. If they initially view you as a non-neutral person (actually or potentially partial to one of the two or more sides to the dispute), you may be able to overcome this impression and proceed with the mediation – or you may not. Sometimes it is better not to even try.

The easiest of the situations is when you feel very sure the parties will have a bias against you as the mediator. I accepted an EEO mediation case from the U.S. Postal Service. When the paperwork arrived, I noted that the employee bringing the EEO action had a very unusual name (we’ll call him “Mr. X”). Within the last several weeks, I had mediated a small claims case with a party with the same name in another venue. The mediation had not resulted in a settlement, and I had the distinct impression that Mr. X strongly blamed me for that result. So, I called the person who had assigned the case to me. Without revealing any details, I said that I had reason to believe I had recently mediated a case with Mr.X and thought that he might not want me as a mediator again. I requested that Mr. X be asked if he had recently been in a mediation of any type and, if so, would he want that same mediator for his EEO case. As I suspected, when asked the question in that way, he said no, and […]

By |April 18th, 2015|Group Facilitation Denver, Mediation|Comments Off on GROUP FACILITATION AND MEDIATION – A Few Words about Neutrality, Part II