In my own mediation practice several years ago, I coined the phrase “WTA” for Working Together Agreements—now being implemented by mediators for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. I have crafted numerous WTA’s in various workplaces, and even in a few family law mediations. It is a very specific set of rules by which the people involved in the dispute agree to abide by to address the issues that have arisen in the relationship.
A WTA accomplishes numerous tasks:
For the employees
By mediating the agreement, the people involved in the dispute are allowed to be a part of their own solution—it empowers employees. It evens the playing field, so to speak, in management versus line staff situations. It provides the employees with a plan to follow to get along with one another, (sometimes setting specific guidelines, procedures, or even something as simple as not eating at one’s desk which bothered another employee) while also establishing a procedure to engage if problems develop again (whether that is to first email one another if there is an issue, or to contact a third party employee, of if no alternative is available, to get the mediator involved again).
For the employer
By engaging in this type of mediation, the employer- through the mediator, is refining its knowledge of the issues, potential issues, specific employee behavior, whether an employee wishes to solve the problem or simply continue to complain, and other jewels of employee creativity, ability and desire to work together, and problem solving abilities. Perhaps the largest benefit is that this type of mediation works to prevent liability—the employer has addressed the issue, given the parties an opportunity to tell their side of the story, make some factual conclusions, and provide a remedy to the employees. Later, if litigation is threatened, the WTA and its procedure may be used to document the employer’s attempts to provide due process, treat everyone fairly and the same from an equal opportunity standpoint, and I have found that many habitual problem employees tire of following the new procedure or violate it, and simply decide to resign.
WTAs are not proper for all situations. I also provide mediation of disputes that have already been filed with the court.
Disputes between a business and an employee can devastate a business; especially in protracted litigation. Few issues can destroy the morale, stretch beyond the expertise of HR staff, significantly interrupt and sometimes completely halt the workflow, and erode substantial assets like a dispute with an employee. Mediation is an invaluable strategy in these instances.
Businesses are wise to recognize the potential psychological effect and other considerable consequences of engaging in litigation as the solution. The potential negative can often be overcome by engaging in mediation.
In circumstances where it is unclear whether the parties are interested in mediation, I can provide an initial assessment at little cost—to determine if engaging in the mediation is worthwhile.
By mediating, I can greatly increase the chance of a resolution by helping the parties to open communication, focus on their real interests and attempt to find a resolution that meets the needs of both sides, both pre and post complaint filing. My background working with so many people, particularly as an equal employment officer and work in diversity planning and programs has enabled me to easily reach out to people of all backgrounds and different socio-economic situations, gain their trust, and guide them to a resolution.
I look forward to discussing your unique situation and beginning our collaboration to attain your resolution.