There is a distinct advantage to resolving disputes as early as possible. Like an illness, a dispute has phases and is more easily cured when diagnosed early. If you leave a dispute to fester and rankle, the risk is that, like a leak from a burst pipe, its destructive power can increase exponentially.
There is a psychological advantage to resolving disputes early, whether in the workplace or a business setting, because the longer a dispute goes on, the more resentment builds up. People “invest” in a dispute and their preconceptions come into play, interpreting every action of the other party in the context of the dispute.
The longer it goes on, the harder it is to give up a dispute and have a fresh start. I see this all the time in litigation when people come to court or a mediation with bundles of papers. Some have spent years dealing with a dispute and it has become a major part of their life. It is hard to step back from the legal arguments and to compromise. If they settle their dispute, all that work and time is wasted and there may be no justification or reinforcement from a Court. They often want to be vindicated or proven to have been right. Self justification is a motivation. If they have incurred court fees and costs, these become a barrier to settlement, making it difficult to resolve matters at a Court of appeal stage as opposed to pre-proceedings. With the Courts, the procedure and time table takes over, focusing minds on process at the expense of resolution. We have an adversarial system in the UK designed to encourage argument. There are winners and losers and the litigation process is like a game to some. The courts have introduced Pre action protocols and we manage the Manchester Mediation pilot designed to offer mediation at a discount for willing parties. We also offer Pre proceedings mediation, which has a good chance of success when legal costs and fees are not disproportionate.
The same is also true in an employment or workplace context. I have come across situations where a misunderstanding between colleagues has led to a fully blown grievance and people leaving their jobs when communication via a mediator would have nipped any misunderstanding in the bud. ACAS offers to mediate in employment cases before they go to the tribunal and this is positive, but by the stage of an employment tribunal, relationships are hard to restore. A workplace dispute or disagreement can result from a clash of personalities. It can spread through a team like a wild fire, if not tackled early on. Or like an infectious disease, it can infect a whole organisation, reducing productivity. Much better to get a mediator into the workplace when a problem first arises. It is a truism that a problem shared with a mediator is a problem potentially solved.
In the words of Shakespeare, “ripeness is all” and it is a question of stepping back and thinking, is this dispute at a stage where it can be resolved quickly cost effectively. In fact, we recommend the insurance policy of a dispute resolution clause in all contracts, referring disputes to ProMediate as a first step when they first arise.
To hire a mediator, discuss dispute resolution clauses or to find out whether we can help resolve a dispute please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org