Friday, December 6, 2013

The Private Meeting Between Clients: Mediating Dangerously

      In it's purest sense, a mediation is supposed to be a chance for direct confrontation and communication between the principals engaged in the dispute.  Far too often, in the age of litigated cases and commercial mediation, this step is avoided or eliminated at all costs.  Still, whenever there has been a strong and positive pre-existing relationship, such as employment, family or even marriage, it's great if you can orchestrate a private meeting between the principals early on in the mediation.
     This week, I took that risk and had the Human Resources manager meet privately with the terminated long-term employee to discuss the reasons for her decision, her regrets and her thoughts about future potential alternative employment.  At the same time, the employee had her chance to rage at the H.R. manager, express her sadness for being let go so abruptly, her frustration in finding alternative employment and her profound sense of loss after she was fired.  The meeting ended with tears and a hug.
     The mediation was not over, but it was only after that watershed meeting that the parties could productively and collaboratively work together to find a way out of the lawsuit.  It is mediating dangerously, since neither the mediator nor either sides lawyer was present to orchestrate or script the meeting and each of us took the considerable risk of allowing things to blow up instead of over.  But in the end, when those private meetings result in tears, hugs and ultimately settled cases, it is oh, so rewarding to take such a risk.