How to manage conflict in the workplace. Handy mediation skills for in house teams. 

Recently at Harvest’s HR Roundtable, Brett Pomroy, Specialist Mediator from Blax Group took participants through Mediation in the workplace. Here’s our recap…

What is mediation?

Mediation is the process of bringing parties together with the aim to get a resolution between parties

It is:

  • Where a joint decision and agreement is arrived at;
  • Where the parties involved have equal power in the negotiation (even if they do not sit at equal levels on the Organisation Chart);
  • Facilitated via impartial assistance. The mediator must be independent of the two parties;
  • A process based system;
  • Where discussions and agreements cannot be brought up in a court of law. Employees cannot be disciplined for what transpires in a mediation/conciliation meetings down the track;
  • and brings with it clear rules of engagement and etiquette required of the parties.

What it is not …

Mediation is not

  • Counselling;
  • Arbitration nor investigation;
  • Where the mediator tells the parties what to do and how to do things. It is driven by the parties involved.

The advantages of mediation

  • Mediation focuses on the interest of both parties.
  • The resolutions from mediation are made and agreed by both parties. Because they own them there is a greater chance of progress.
  • Allows high party involvement (such as psychologists, lawyers, support people) in addition to the Mediator
  • Provides flexibility in outcomes – different approaches can be trialled to remediate the issue.
  • Has a basis of an ongoing relationship with the aim to build a good working relationship post mediation
  • It is cost-effective in terms of the resources, time and costs compared with litigation or investigation

Concerns with mediation

  • There is no guaranteed outcome. Sometimes parties may not come to an agreement.
  • It is usually behind closed doors but group mediation can be less than confidential (eg/ phone recording etc)
  • It is still time consuming and requires careful consideration in each of its phases – intake, preparation, scheduling, research and reviewing in addition to the mediation meeting itself.

Types of mediation

Therapeutic – this is normally attached to family law and requires mediation to be undertaken by a mediator with a formal qualification and practice to do so

Evaluative – used in Human Rights, Equal Opportunity or the Fair Work Commission. Here the mediator provides guidance based on their skill in employment law, discrimination, harassment and bullying. The mediator may wear two hats that of Lawyer and Mediator. The mediator can come from the HR or Policy Division of an organisation who knows the underlying policies behind the issue at hand.

Settlement – where the mediator encourages the parties to compromise

Facilitative – the most common model used for mediation conferences. Here the dispute is defined, the parties identified, their interest learned and what they are seeking to achieve understood. Then the mediator facilitates so both parties have the opportunity to identify the issue and present a desired outcome through the mediator who facilitates the process.

Mediation steps

  1. Intake

Many mediation successes are attributed to how the intake is handled.

During this stage the mediator determines if the parties are suitable to proceed or not proceed with mediation.

The mediator spends a great deal of time with the individuals to unpack the process and what will happen and how the mediation can take place and various options that can be employed. The mediator will use their skills in holding mediation meetings to determine the best offering to the parties or alternatives. According to Brett, it’s important to be flexible according to the parties involved and desires.

Examples may include – holding mediation/conciliation conferences online if the parties feel more comfortable. Have the opportunity to break out into individual private sessions during the joint mediation. Shuffling the mediation where one party is heard privately, another privately and then the two come together.

Mediators should assign at least an hour per party for the intake meeting and anywhere between 1.5 – 3 hours on the intake process.

  1. Mediation Conference

The mediation conference should include:

A formal agenda

The opportunity for introduction of parties and the issue/dispute

An opening statement from each party

The opportunity for the mediator to determine next steps based on the parties emotional state – for example continue to option generation or pause in the interest of either, both parties or go to private sessions.

Option generation where the mediator uses a host of tools to present options to move forward with a preference for the parties to jointly work this through.

The negotiation process – where the mediator presents the options, benefits, challenges.

Agreement – this is the formal report that is presented to the employer. Whilst most of the discussion is confidential and the details not released broadly, what the parties determine as their agreed outcome is laid out in the final agreement.

About Brett Pomroy

Brett Pomroy, Employment Lawyer

Brett Pomroy

Brett is a Certified and Registered Mediator and an Australian Lawyer.

Brett works with clients in Australia and abroad, providing expertise in labour management, with over 15 years’ experience in Workplace and Industrial Relations.

Early exposure to HR, fuelled a keen interest in the areas of Industrial, Workplace and Employee Relations, Workers Compensation and OHS.

Time in the sector has seen Brett work across a wide selection of industries and gain a great deal of experience and knowledge. Brett also has developed long term relationships with clients which he credits his personality, professionalism and ability to deliver.

Brett has a keen interest in building business within the global market which leads him to participate on a number of committees and interest groups and is currently studying to further his knowledge and qualifications in regards to labour management on an international scale. Brett is about business.

He believes in business and often provides his time, pro bono, to presentations and panels, where business owners and employees can participate and develop their knowledge in in the world of labour management.

Currently operating his own business, Blax Group, Brett provides Labour management solutions for clients. Blax Group, has gone from strength to strength, growing and expanding each year. Brett also works as a lawyer, for a firm specialising in employment and corporate law.

Brett’s background and education provides clients with a practical person who is qualified to handle any human resources issue they may have.

This session is not to be missed and is a worthy investment for anyone in a people management function.


Where to from here? Further mediation training.

If you’re interested in further training with Brett Pomroy on mediation skills, please contact Harvest Talent Recruitment and People solutions at to learn more.

Brett suggested other channels to improve your mediation skills such as The Resolution Institute and Mediation Australia.

Of course, there’s also plenty of literature if you search mediation on popular search engines.


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