mediation supports mental health

Mediation Supports Employee Mental Health

The emotional wellness of work is a big concern for employers and employees. Mediation can support many of the factors that experts say make workplaces psychologically safe. The Canadian Standards Association released a national standard on psychological health and safety in the workplace. This post explores how mediation supports employee mental health using the national standard’s 13 workplace factors.

The standard identifies 13 workplace factors that contribute to psychologically safe workplaces:

  1. Organizational Culture
  2. Psychological Support
  3. Clear Leadership & Expectations
  4. Civility & Respect
  5. Psychological Demands
  6. Growth & Development
  7. Recognition & Reward
  8. Involvement & Influence
  9. Workload Management
  10. Engagement
  11. Balance
  12. Psychological Protection
  13. Protection of Physical Safety

Mediation and functioning conflict management systems support nine of these workplace factors:

  1. Organizational Culture
  2. Psychological Support
  3. Clear Leadership & Expectations
  4. Civility & Respect
  5. Growth & Development
  6. Involvement & Influence
  7. Workload Management
  8. Engagement
  9. Psychological Protection

Mediation Supports Organizational Culture

A workplace with a mentally healthy organizational culture is characterized by high levels of trust, honesty and fairness. Organizational culture are the norms communicated by the organization and accepted by the employees. Mediation supports organizational culture by building trust, breaking down barriers to honesty and allowing participants self determination.

Mediation as part of a consistent conflict management policy builds trust by creating a method for directly addressing conflict. Conflict that is not addressed directly can damage trust between individuals. However, the bigger problem for organizations is the tendency for conflicting parties to become warring factions. As parties become entrenched in conflict the usual pattern is that each party will begin to build support networks for their side of the conflict. This is the workplace version of the Hatfields and McCoys. As more workers become involved organizational trust dissolves. This carries risks for mental wellness and organizational productivity.

Honesty in an organization can be difficult. Commercial enterprises are concerned with getting the work done. Communication corners get cut and some people choose to go alone to get alone. People usually don’t set out to be dishonest. This usually presents itself as glossing over the non important details or omitting challenges.

In the video above, the narrator had been calling her neighbour by the wrong name for 14 years. The neighbour had never corrected her and had even sent her christmas cards signed with her wrong name. At the end of the video the narrator struggles with what to do now. Without a space created for the honesty required to move beyond there is a limited number of options. In an organization, one department may gloss over what they thought was insignificant and later find out that it was an important detail for another department. Meditation is often thought of as addressing interpersonal problems, but occasionally the process uncovers organizational process or communication gaps that predisposed the parties to conflict.

Fairness is supported by the mediation process. Claims of unfairness of power based approaches abound. Every workplace harassment investigation I can think of has had challenges to the fairness of the process. These challenges are usually based in dissatisfaction with the outcome from one or both parties. Mediation allows the parties to come to their own outcome. Even when conducted after an investigation with findings, allowing the parties to decide how they will function in the workplace after the investigation empowers them. Autonomy is a significant contributor to perceptions of fairness. Mediation supports employee mental health by contributing to a healthy organizational culture.

Mediation Strengthens Psychological Support

In the standard psychological support doesn’t refer to extrinsic clinical support it refers to the support experienced by employees from other employees and supervisors. Mediation and conflict mangement support this workplace Factor by allowing individuals in Conflict who may be experiencing mental health issues safe place to discuss their needs and supports required for recovery.

Mediation Supports Clear Leadership and Expectations

A workplace where there is effective leadership and support that helps employees know what they need to do, how their work contributes to the organization and whether there are impending changes. It also addresses short comingts with an interest based approach that seeks to fulfil and empower employees.

Mediation Builds Civility & Respect

A workplace where employees are respectful and considerate in their interactions with one another, as well as with customers, clients and the public supports worker psychological safety. A robust conflict management system that includes mediation allows workers to deal with conflict in a way that is respectful and provides lasting resolution to issues not just a temporary cease fire.

Mediation Supports Growth & Development

A workplace that supports growth and development is a place where employees get encouragement and support in the development of their interpersonal, emotional and job skills. Participation in mediation or conflict resolution training allows employees and leaders to grow their emotional and interpersonal skill set. From dealing with difficult people to negotiation to mediation of specific conflicts, a mediator can offer multiple lines of support for the personal development of staff and teams.

Mediation Encourages Involvement & Influence

Including a way to meaningfully engage with the workforce in your conflict management system allows employees to be and feel heard. Difficult conversations can be supported by outside facilitators but a properly designed system will generally allow this to be done in house. The key is helping your employers understand how changes are supporting business needs.

Mediation Enables Workload Management

An excessive workload can drive workplace conflicts. Having systems in place to flag and mitigate overwork can open up opportunities to support employees and keep them at peak performance.

Mediation Drives Engagement

Resolving conflict early guards against disengagement. Employees who don’t need to waste energy on planning their next tactical move to best their opponent or on worrying about what someone is going to do to them are free to become more involved in their work. Employees who feel listened to are more engaged. Both a conflict management system and mediation can support employee engagement.

Mediation Provides Psychological Protection

Workplaces need to promote the emotional well-being of their employees and take all reasonable steps to minimize threats to employee mental health. Conflict and disputes can be a significant contributor to the stress experienced by employees. Having a conflict management system and a clear way to access expert conflict support like mediation can go a long way to supporting the mental health of employees.

About Dave Wakely

For the past 5 years Dave has worked to implement the CSA standard on psychological health and safety in the workplace at a large organization. Dave is a Chartered Mediator who deals with workplace and labour issues. He holds a certificate in workplace mental health law and a Master’s Degree in Dispute Resolution from Osgoode Hall Law School. Dave is passionate about realizing the value conflict resolution holds for workers and employers.

Are you interested in how mediation supports employee mental health or think Dave may be able to help your organization by providing mediation or helping design your conflict management system? Please contact me.

Posted in Mediation.

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