Expert advice

Workplace: How can I mediate between two colleagues?

Zeba Arif advises on how to mediate between colleagues

I have been approached by a ward manager who feels she is being bullied and harrassed by her line manager. How can I mediate between them? 

Preparation is essential to making mediation work. Picture: IStock

Mediation can be an effective way of solving conflict between staff members. It signifies a willingness for people to work together to discuss their differences in a constructive way, before going down the official grievance route. 

Preparation is essential to effective mediation. In this case, you have to ascertain what has upset the ward manager, so you can determine whether the line between supervision and bullying and harassment has become blurred. 

For example, is the line manager pushing constantly and finding fault with everything? Are inappropriate comments made in front of other staff or patients?

Seek clarification 

The line manager may have intended to provide constructive criticism but is coming across as harsh and insensitive. This can often be addressed successfully in mediation.

During the course of mediation, the ward manager has to be clear about the behaviour that makes her uncomfortable.

Seeking clarification, such as ‘What did you mean when you said...?’ or focusing on personal feelings such as ‘Whatever I do, I am made to feel inadequate...’ affords both parties an opportunity to clear the air. 

Provide support 

Your role during mediation is to support the ward manager to achieve the outcome she wants, and to help her to stay focused on issues that affect performance. 

She may just want an apology, or recognition that she is a valued member of the team who is doing a good job under difficult circumstances.

Reassurance from the line manager that he or she will provide a working environment conducive to the delivery of excellent care may also be necessary. 

About the author 

Zeba ArifZeba Arif is a committee member of the RCN nursing in justice and forensic healthcare forum and was an RCN steward for 23 years.

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