An article by Richard Berman on SFGate.com, titled “Resolving Workplace Conflicts,” provides an interesting survey of the benefits of mediation. The focus of the article is on conflicts at work, between boss and employee or co-workers. Mr. Berman notes that in a slow economy, employers are, of course, in a strong position. “Yet despite having the upper hand, they often participate in mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution for one simple reason: it’s far more cost-effective than doing nothing or heading to litigation.”
This statement reflects an appreciation of the true, but difficult to measure, costs of conflict. Even if it is possible for those involved to continue on the course they are on, conflict takes a toll on them. Unconscious denial or an explicit choice to take no action will hurt productivity, whether the cost can be easily added up in dollars and cents or the conflict more subtly undermines morale, working hours, and creativity. Litigation, of course, is an expensive and time-consuming approach.
From a broader perspective, these same costs can be seen, even if hard to quantify, in almost any setting where those in conflict have a continuing relationship or would like to have one. Mediation can help them to face the issues constructively and to work towards an effective resolution.