Community (Neighbour) Joint Meeting Mediation

This case involved three neighbours who lived in a tower block of flats.  They had been referred for mediation by their landlord because of complaints about noise.

The Mediator, Alex, began by visiting each person in their home, where she heard about the issue from their point of view, as they described the impact it was having on their lives.  Alex also heard that no-one really knew their neighbours, as they lived on different floors, so people were uncomfortable about a direct approach, yet everyone wanted the noise to stop.  Alex was able to persuade the parties to agree to come to a joint meeting and before leaving, made sure they were prepared for it.

Alex explained that the aims were to open the lines of communication, by giving everyone a chance to speak and be heard, and to involve everyone in creating a plan to resolve their issues and deal with anything else that might arise in the future.  The meeting would be in a neutral venue (so everyone was on an equal footing) and she would manage the process with the help of a set of common sense “ground rules” (such as showing respect and listening).

To begin with, Alex broke the ice by getting everyone to introduce themselves, but she structured the start of the discussion quite tightly by giving each person a few minutes to say briefly what their issues were and what they hoped to achieve through mediation without any interruption.  When everyone had done this, Alex began to explore the issues in more detail.  Noticing that people were more relaxed, Alex took more of a ‘light touch’ approach, letting the discussion flow.

As more details emerged, there was a “light bulb moment” when everyone realised that none of the noise had been deliberate (something which they had originally thought) and that noise can travel through 2 floors.  By the time Alex asked people to begin looking at solutions, everyone was comfortable with putting their ideas forward and they all worked together to make an agreement.

Having had this opportunity to get to know one another, they no longer had any apprehensions about knocking on a stranger’s door ‘to complain’.  A key part of the agreement was that in future, they would speak to each other about any future issues, rather than complaining to their landlord.

The outcome: a win/win for the parties and for the landlord, who no longer had to spend time dealing with the complaints.

Shuttle mediation

Two neighbours, Harry and Alison, were referred for mediation because they were each complaining to their housing association about noise.

The Mediator, Emily, visited Alison and heard that she was keen to “get this sorted”.  Alison said that she would be willing to attend a joint meeting.  However, during her visit to Harry, Emily heard from Harry about his anger management issues when he felt stressed.

Although joint meetings are recommended, Emily was concerned about placing Harry in a situation that could make it difficult for him to manage his anger.  She discussed her concerns with her Supervisor and decided it would be safer to conduct a shuttle mediation, even though this would take longer than a joint meeting.  In a shuttle mediation, the parties do not come face to face.  Instead, the Mediator passes messages between them until agreement is reached.

On the day arranged for the shuttle, Emily began by agreeing some “ground rules”, emphasising that this was a confidential process, but at the same time, it was important to be as open with one another as possible.  As the shuttle went on, Emily started to share information between Harry and Alison.  Just hearing an explanation of what was happening and the effect the noise was having on them both went a long way towards helping them find solutions.  Alison dropped one of her complaints, because she now understood and accepted what was happening.

Together, Harry and Alison reached an agreement, which Emily wrote down.  Their agreement included plans regarding how they would communicate to resolve any future issues.

Afterwards, both parties said they felt much more confident about approaching one another, with one saying “I am extremely happy with today’s outcome, which was better than expected!!!  Thank you.”

Workplace – Team Manager and Team Member

Janice, a Team Member, asked for mediation with Carol, her Team Manager.

During Janice’s confidential one-to-one session with the Mediator, she revealed that she had been offered training by her manager but had refused this because she was frightened that it would remind her of a series of difficult training sessions she had experienced with another employer.  Although this had created tensions between her and Carol, Janice felt she could not share this with Carol.

During Carol’s confidential one-to-one session, she explained that Janice had been having difficulty with a specific issue at work.  Carol had discussed this with her employer, who had agreed to offer Janice specific training.  Carol felt annoyed and let down that Janice had refused the training when she had gone the extra mile to arrange it.  This had led to a deterioration in their working relationship.

The mediation meeting allowed Carol to understand why Janice had refused the training and her reasons for not wanting to say anything at the time.  Janice heard that Carol had gone out of her way to get special permission to pay for that training, something she had not been aware of before.

Both agreed that some training would help Janice.  They also agreed to look for a course that was suited Janice’s learning style and that after the first session Janice would report how it went to Carol.  Carol would then arrange for the second session to be tweaked, if necessary.

At the end of the meeting, Janice said to Carol “I feel so much better about approaching you now”.