The mediator is an expert of relational quality

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Henri Sendros-Mila is the vice-president of the Professional Chamber of Mediation and Negotiation and a delegate for the region of Ile de France with Ludivine Guyot and Hélène Mélikov, President of "Viamédiation" which is a professional mediation center established under the aegis of the PCMN and the College of friends of mediation. He coordinated the scientific seminar of conflicts resolution on March 20, 2009. He is one of the main trainers of the mediation formation aiming the Certificate of professional mediator - CAPM.


[edit] Interview

Conduct of the mediation, required qualifications, the most common conflicts... so many questions from readers of the "Journal of Management" to which Henry Sendros-Mila has answered by chat.

To appeal to the neutrality of an outside mediator enables to resolve many conflicts within the company may it be internal or involving customers or suppliers. What is this profession? The responses from Henry Sendros-Mila, vice-president of the Professional Chamber of Mediation and Negotiation:

[edit] In Which Kind of Conflicts Do you Intervene? Within the Same Company or Between Several Companies?

I intervene in all types of conflicts, internal or between several companies. To be more precise, regarding the interventions within companies, I also intervene in conflict prevention. I can cite a few examples... Within the framework of a restructuring or reorganization; several malfunctions emerge and are especially related to the needs of the protagonists of the company of repositioning themselves. It is sometimes necessary to intervene to enable everyone to understand the new challenges of the company, express their expectations, dispel their fears and finally to ensure that everyone can truly be involved in the new orientation taken by the company.

Another example of a recent intervention which was on this case related to the deterioration climate in a team: the mediation has consisted to point out several negative feelings, non-said, interpretations of others' intentions, career rivalries that had significantly deteriorated the relations. It was necessary to face these elements to restart on new basis and restore the dialogue between the team members.

[edit] How concretely is Conducted the Mediation Process? How Long Does it Take?

Mediation can be very different according to the context and issues that must be treated. Basically, we can observe several inevitable stages:

  • Establishment of the context: it aims at presenting mediation, its rules of operation and communication between the parties and validating the comprehension of all these points and the commitment of the parties;
  • A phase of listening: an inventory of facts, their consequences and feelings will be made;
  • The confrontation of viewpoints and the restoration of a more serene communication;
  • The assessment of solutions in a creative spirit;
  • The validation of the most satisfactory solution as possible for the parties and the formalization of an agreement.

The required time can vary. A common fixed idea is that mediation would be mainly to listen and be a sort of "soft justice". To cut short this wrong idea, the mediator must still move relatively quickly while allowing a time for reflection between the phases, especially between the proposal of solutions and their validation. The mediator must keep in mind that the parties in conflict or difficulty are generally in the hurry to go out of the conflict. They appreciate the effectiveness of mediation. Mediation can divide by three or more the length of a judicial proceeding.

[edit] An outside Mediator can be Perceived as the Envoy of the Management. How do you Mitigate this Image?

Indeed, this perception may exist, especially when the management is the one to pay. It must be noticed that the mediation fees may very well be shared, with the employee for example, even if it is not necessarily desirable. What is important is for the mediator to succeed in establishing a climate of trust that makes that doubt disappear completely.

There are several possibilities for the company which wishes in establishing mediation. For some conflicts, companies can use internal mediators who will treat for example interpersonal relationships at work, relationships with the hierarchy... They will in fact intervene as facilitators of the communication.

For conflicts that generally imply judicial proceedings, such as labor tribunals, the recourse to external mediators is more recommended. One of the guarantees these mediators can present is to belong to the Professional Chamber of Mediation and Negotiation which is the guarantor of compliance with a Code of Ethics and Deontology of Mediation.

[edit] How do you Manage Aggressiveness?

Aggressiveness is a consequence of an emotional state. The recognition of this state enables the interlocutor to find back his serenity. Mediation is also a place through which people need to "empty their bags" and be accepted in their entirety as individuals. But the mediator also has to get from the parties the compliance with the rules that have been established in the beginning, so that these excesses will not parasitize the mediation process.

[edit] This should not be Easy Everyday to Work in a Conflictual Atmosphere... What Qualities Should we Have to be a Mediator?

The first is for mediator to know himself: he must be aware of his values, prejudices or preconceived ideas. This is essential in order to take some detachment and maintain neutrality in situations that we encounter. Another important quality is the welcoming. We must not prejudge the good will of people: even "aggressive" verbal expressions must be understood as motivated by real needs. This behavior is clumsier than a malicious intent.

The third quality is a serene affirmation, i.e. the ability to express things in a clear and benevolent way, including those that may be difficult for the parties to hear. The mediator is concerned with the admissibility of his statements by the parties. Finally, among the other qualities: the pedagogy, the listening, and of course the facilitation of expression.

==In your Opinion, What Training Seems to be the Most Adapted to this Mission? Does a Previous Professional Experience Within a Company Seem Important to You? Yes, a professional experience within a company is important and desirable, particularly in the area of human resources, management of staff, conflictual situations or relationship issues. For training, I would say that advices vary according to the approaches of the mediators. What seems essential to me is a behavioral training focused on the ability to improve relational quality of which the mediator must be a specialist. I do not advocate trainings related to psychology or law; even though this is not necessarily incompatible with mediation.

[edit] Do you Find that there are Enough Mediators in France? How Many Companies Appeal to Them?

There are many mediators and of different kinds! It is actually astonishing that people practicing in fact such different professions use a similar term. There are cultural mediators, district mediators, social mediators, mediators of newspapers, a mediator of the Republic (France)... And then there are - and it is these ones that I represent - mediators who are generalist and independent and whose vocation is to intervene in situations that can be conflictual or not, in order to support decision-making. Nowadays, this profession is developing. But this is a task of these mediators to ensure, through their communication, that companies think about appealing to them.

[edit] Have you Noticed an Increase of Requests? Are There Dominant Motifs?

Yes, requests are increasing, partly due to better information and especially on the Web. The need to prevent conflicts by maintaining the relational quality within the company is in particular among the reasons we encounter the most often. Is also expressed the need to better resolve conflicts which are external of the company.

[edit] Regarding Conflicts Between Companies, Are Financial Disputes the Most Frequent and Important?

Financial aspects are obviously very important. For example, late deliveries may have important consequences on the management of the company. But these are not the only aspects: other factors may intervene, particularly when the objective is to maintain lasting relationships between the parties. In this case, the relational aspects can be important to consider and take into account. It must be noticed that a mediation clause can be included in trade contracts. It foresees the recourse into mediation before initiating a legal proceeding. You will be therefore able to find a quick answer while the tribunals are sometimes very long to give a verdict.

[edit] Are Companies Within Which There is a Union Presence More or Less Subject to Conflict Requiring a Mediator?

Whether there is union presence or not, companies subject to conflicts are those within which dialogue is already difficult or not very fluid. The unions are not today necessarily very familiar with this mediation process. They may even be suspicious: the approach of the mediator may be perceived in contradiction with their own which is more collective. Furthermore, one of the prerogatives of unions is to negotiate. The mediator may then appear as a competitor.

[edit] Does it Happen Not to Resolve a Conflict?

It happens of course not to reach a definitive solution. It can be noticed that the mediator has no obligation of results. However, he has an obligation of mastering the mediation process and must be capable of determining whether the conditions are not present to reach a final solution.

[edit] What Are the Cases the Hardest to Resolve in Mediation?

It probably varies according to the mediators. The establishment of mediation in the beginning is a particularly difficult stage. This is especially the case when people have a great tension between each other and a lot of mistrust. There is therefore an important work for the mediator to restore confidence and a calm dialogue. Mediations that involve groups of three up to six people are also delicate. They lead to more complex processes with a multiparty communication. The mediator must be even more vigilant about the compliance with the communication rules.

[edit] What do you Think About the Social Conflicts Management in France? They Often Take on Enormous Proportions

You are right! I would say, generally, that the conflict is not negative in itself. What is important is precisely to create the conditions of a dialogue which enable to go over it. The mediators that intervene, for example after appointment by the government, are in fact not really mediators, but rather negotiators that have previously thought about solutions. But a principle of mediation, as I consider it, is to accompany the parties to make their own solutions. In such conflicts, often, employees do not recognize the legitimacy of the mediator.

It seems important to me to upstream create the conditions for a social dialogue in order to avert to reach these ends. The Professional Chamber of Mediation and Negotiation proposes to establish a framework "Ethics and Mediation" like the charters against discrimination in workplace.

[edit] Is the Profession Exist Abroad? With the Same Form? The Same Constraints?

There are today mediators almost everywhere: in Africa, Europe, the United States or Latin America. The United States are often seen as the precursors. They have indeed extended the obligation to appeal to mediation in many areas: social, academic or within companies... As in France in terms of labor tribunals, there is in the United States a number of conflicts for which the law has provided for the settlement through mediation. That does not mean that a legal action cannot be initiated thereafter.

==How Much Does a Mediator Earn? It all depends on his workload! Situations are very different between a mediator who is the employee of an organization (company, association...) and a mediator who practices in freelance. Today, mediators must really look for their missions. It is a profession of the future but the future has to be built. Regarding the cost of mediation, two principles may be applied. On one hand, an approach "fees" like lawyers for example, with a free setting of the tariffs. On the other hand, an approach "by commission" related to the issues of the situation. This previous approach especially concerns the companies.

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