Typical examples of use:

  • Disputes in the management
  • hardening of fronts, disputes between management and works council
  • Conflicts between managers and employees
  • Competence disputes
  • Conflicts in projects
  • Blockades after restructuring measures
  • Conflicts with customers, suppliers, manufacturers
  • Disputes between associated companies
  • Conflicts after company mergers

A practical example: Mediation in a medium-sized mechanical engineering company

There was "thick air“ in the legal department. Again there were complaints from field staff in the team meeting. They demanded faster processing of contracts and especially greater flexibility. Some clients are not willing to wait until the contracts that have already been negotiated with the sales people are reviewed in the legal department. As a result, deals have already failed to materialise due to time delays. The manager of the legal department is under pressure. The situation escalates and develops into a massive conflict between the legal and sales departments. In the course of the disputes, there is a real agitation in the two departments; constructive cooperation is out of the question. The two conflicting parties no longer speak to each other and the managing director told me that he could not do without either of the two executives. He asked me to mediate.

We made an appointment to clarify the terms of reference. During the second part of the conversation, both of his managers were present and the meaning and purpose of the cooperation were discussed with me as the external mediator. Both managers agreed to external support and so we agreed on 3 appointments.

1. meeting: Discussion of points of view

The first appointment was used for each manager to present their point of view, the positions were discussed and an agenda was worked out. This was quite difficult, because both felt "in the right" and signalled that nothing would change and that they would only waste more time. Nevertheless, the two then agreed on 3 rules of the game:

When one of them speaks, the other listens and does not interrupt;
no verbal attacks will take place;
each speaks in the "I" form, away from the general term "one".

In the agenda, the factual points were worked out, i.e. the competences of the two managers and the respective employees, the course of a concrete case between the departments and what had actually happened, what had triggered this situation.

2. meeting: conflict enlightenment

This agenda prepared in the first meeting was the basis for the second joint meeting, which was about the so-called conflict enlightenment. I asked about the respective needs, feelings, motives and resources and then summarised what had been said. The sales manager wanted to go back to the front, to the customer, and remarked: „we would have to deal with each other better in future“. He wanted to leave. I did not respond to his half-hearted offer of compromise. I again motivated both managers to address their anger, grievances and abuse of trust in this protected setting. It gradually became clear that the sales manager was covering up his not so distinctive ego with sharp remarks and that the lawyer was basically taking everything seriously.

After a short break, the two used a brainstorming technique to develop their own ideas and suggestions and to think of solutions. Now they approached each other, communication no longer went through me but directly. They dealt with the questions: what would be conceivable to solve the conflict? Who does what, by when, with whom? I pointed out the points on which there was still no agreement and created a concensus and dissensus list. The points of dissent were discussed and the results summarised.

3. meeting: Working on the points of consensus and dissensus.

At the third meeting we continued to work on the points of consensus and dissent. Both managers contributed their ideas and described points that were the basis for agreement. Both dealt with each other openly and fairly, even with restraint. A new level of work together had been created.

At the end of this meeting there was an agreement signed by both. After a few weeks, there was another meeting to check whether the agreement held. It did and the managing director received a final feedback.

Why was the work ultimately successful? Both managers cared very much about the company and neither wanted to disappoint the managing director.