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Managing problems at work: have you tried mediation?

Blog Author Neeta Udhian

Blog Date 09/10/2018



​Managing people is often one of the hardest things to do in business, and dentistry is not immune from situations arising between colleagues that can flare up and cause conflict.

Considering the amount of stress dentists are under, we find that conflicts between staff can easily arise and can sometimes turn quickly into a big problem for all those involved.

If you are experiencing issues with staff at work, before escalating it to the level of getting expensive legal representation involved, consider trying our mediation service first – it's free, and it could help you to resolve problems, before things deteriorate, saving you time and money.

We find there are two common scenarios when it comes to disputes:

  • Up close and personal: interpersonal disputes are common in the oft stressful working environment of a dental practice. This can impact on not just those involved, but the whole team, creating a negative atmosphere for all. Spotting the tension early on and tackling it is the best strategy to a quicker resolution.
  • Money, money, money: the most common type of commercial disputes in dental practices are between partners or between practice owners and associates, and they are usually about money. This can result in legal action being taking, which is costly and time consuming to then resolve, as well as stressful.

What can you do? Try mediation first

One way to resolve both of these types of situations early on and, hopefully, with less time, less money and less stress expended, is mediation.

Mediation gets both sides of a dispute to work together to try to resolve the issue. It incurs no legal fees and no awarding of costs. We offer a free mediation service to all members, to help get those involved around the table.

It differs from arbitration or litigation, where an independent party assesses the facts and makes a final decision for each party.

With mediation, an agreement reached is based on both parties working together. It's also a voluntary process, so both parties have to be signed up to finding a way forward.


What happens in mediation?

We can set up a mediation meeting at our London office, helping to provide a neutral space for discussion.

Prior to the mediation, both parties exchange a 'position statement' outlining their issues and the resolution they are seeking.

Then at the meeting, two certified mediators will meet with each party individually to gain a full understanding of their concerns and the resolution they are seeking.

The mediators will then facilitate a discussion between parties to help each party achieve their desired outcome, by working together.

The idea is to look ahead rather than focus on what has happened.

A joint facilitated meeting is encouraged for interpersonal disputes, but both commercial and interpersonal disputes can be resolved via the 'shuttle' process. Where the mediators will shuttle between both parties until an agreement is reached.

The benefit of mediation is that any issues can be aired in a safe and controlled environment.

The mediators are trained to ensure that both parties are not only able to express their views and concerns without fear but that they are also heard by the other party. For interpersonal disputes especially, this is crucial.

As mediation is a voluntary process, if at any point either party feels the process is not working for them, they are free to end the meeting without any repercussion.

Likewise, if the mediators feel that the parties are unwilling to move from their positions, they too can terminate the process.

If an agreement is reached, a mediation agreement is drafted on the day and signed by both parties, and everyone can focus on getting back to work.

Neeta Udhian, BDA Practice Management Consultant

Adapted from an article by Udhian, N. Mediation. BDJ In Practice 2018; 9: 31.

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