Connection is at the basis of all human relationships: we need it to survive and thrive in all aspects of our lives. At our core, we define our identity based on the people we connect with, seek out those with whom we want to connect to achieve a sense of belonging.

This sense of belonging, and the communication, cooperation and trust it fosters, creates effective teams in a workplace. Within workplaces, as in any social situation, there are differing personalities and communication styles that can and do result in conflict.

There are many reasons for conflicts within teams; as individuals we have different demands placed on us: home life, work and our social groups create pressures that impact how we interact with others. Often these pressures, are not apparent to the people around us. Rarely are we aware of all the factors that affect other people whether these are personal or simply things we don’t want to talk about.

When our expectations in relationships at work or in our business are not being met, constructive communication is necessary to maintain a healthy relationship. Many people struggle to have these difficult conversations for fear of hurting another’s feelings or simply to avoid conflict. Some people will avoid having challenging conversations at all costs; effectively closing communication channels that can deepen misunderstandings.

When conflicts do occur our own interpretation about events and our assumptions about the other person’s motivations influence the way we perceive their words and actions. We have options about how we respond:

We can pretend things are not as they are and carry on as normal, ignoring the conflict.
We can address the person with whom we are having the conflict,
We can cut our ties and simply walk away.
We can be diplomatic, take a step back and get an independent party involved.
To continue an effective business or working relationship with the person, the best option may be to seek independent help: this is where a mediator can be invaluable. Working with a mediator is an opportunity to constructively work through the conflict with a truly independent perspective.

As an outside party, a mediator offers a truly neutral position with the professional training and skills to deliver a positive outcome. Mediators are trained in the art of listening, which is an often overlooked and undervalued communication skill: we are expert listeners!

Mediators create a safe space for all parties involved in the conflict to listen and be heard. All parties gain the opportunity to share their point of view and perspective on possible solutions. Mediators have no expectations or perceptions about “success” or “failure” and from this viewpoint we explore options with both parties as to what a potential solution might look like.

The safe space that the mediator creates allows the conflicting parties to individually talk to the mediator and then to start listening to each other without an expectation of agreement but with every opportunity to develop a sustainable solution. Through a structured process the mediator assists in exploring solutions and in drafting an agreement between both parties.

To meet conflicting parties and facilitate a positive way forward is a true privilege. As a mediator, creating and holding space for people to listen and be heard, and work through the issues towards a potential solution is a humbling and very rewarding experience.

Conflict rarely happens in isolation. In a workplace, the people working with and for the conflicting parties can also be affected: conflict can severely damage a team’s culture. Not only does the mediation process benefit the parties directly involved in the conflict but also often affects their fellow workmates and the organisation in a positive way.

While there is no guarantee of a positive outcome; there are few winners when matters are escalated to the legal system. Mediators can prevent this escalation and provide a far more positive outcome for all parties and the organisation.

If you would like to learn more about our mediation services, please contact us at

Susan Wilhelm