Workplace mediation and the empowerment of disputants: rhetoric or reality?


Correspondence should be addressed to Tony Bennett, Lancashire Business School, University of Central Lancashire, Greenbank Building, Preston PR1 2HE, UK; email:


There has been a growing interest in the field of employee relations in the use of mediation in seeking to resolve disputes in the workplace. Mediation is a model of dispute resolution, it is argued, that lends itself particularly well to situations where the parties have become entrenched in their positions. The study's timeliness is evident in the Government's recent strategic focus on workplace conflict, specifically its current initiative to pilot mediation networks within the small and medium enterprises sector. The research was carried out over a nine-month period ending in March 2012. It is based on the views and experiences of 60 respondents from over 40 cross-sectoral organisations in the North of England. Findings revealed that the main reasons for the disputes referred for mediation were relationship problems, poor communication and poorly perceived management style and practice. Significantly, differences in sector or occupation could also impact on whether cases went to mediation.