Conflict at work takes many forms (Figure 1). Mediation is a way to try and solve the problems of conflict by investigating the issues and looking at ways to resolve them by talking to all parties.

Figure 1. Some common causes of conflict

How does mediation work?

A mediator will often meet the parties in dispute separately, perhaps several times; and then together, to try and resolve the issue(s).

Part of the mediators job is to explore the perceptions each employee or group has of the conflict and to penetrate behind the emotion and focus on the key issues and concerns.

How do you conduct a mediation meeting?

Hold an informal one-to-one meeting with the individual. Use the following techniques and skills:

   listen to what the employee says and try and pick up on any underlying causes of unhappiness or stress;

   question the employee in a measured and calm way, put them at ease and give them the chance to speak freely;

   reframe what’s been said so that problems can be seen in a different light;

   build teams by making connections between the interests of the employee and that of the team or practice;

   lead by example and set the right tone for the way employees communicate with each other; and

   agree some ground rules about how everyone will behave in a face-to-face meeting.

However, always advise people that they will not be forced to meet the other person or group in the dispute if they do not wish to do so. Reassure them that their concerns will be taken seriously and, if relevant, who they would need to go to if they have a problem.

Make it clear what your role is in the process and what you will be doing to try and resolve the issue.

Before making any decisions, carry out a full investigation. This may require you to talk to other employees or managers, to obtain information from personnel files, or to establish whether the employee has personal problems which may be affecting his or her behaviour.

If the employee feels that mediation has failed to resolve the issue under review, then he or she will have to submit a formal grievance and follow the practice or corporate Grievance Procedure. 

Members of the BVNA can contact the IRS Helpline for free advice and support. Call 01822 870270 or e-mail


Nicky Ackerley BA(Hons)

Nicky Ackerley HR Support is owned by Nicky Ackerley who has a BA (Hons) Business Studies Degree, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and who has been a practising HR manager for over 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA's Industrial Relations Service since it began in 2002.

 • VOL 26 • November 2011 • Veterinary Nursing Journal