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Office of Resolution Management (ORM)

FAQs: Mediation

Question Answer
What is mediation? Mediation is an informal way for employees to address disputes with a fellow employee, manager, or colleague. In mediation, a neutral person called a mediator helps two or more persons explore ways to resolve their differences and reach an agreement that best addresses their interests. Mediation allows the parties to create their own unique solutions, instead of taking the problem to an outside decision-maker and having that person’s solution imposed on them. Mediation does not focus on who is right and who is wrong. It focuses on forward thinking and solving the problem. The mediator has no authority to make decisions for the parties. The parties decide what is important to each of them and make decisions based on those factors. The mediator helps the parties communicate, make informed decisions by understanding and listening to each other, and work together to create options and acceptable solutions.
How does the mediation work?

This is a brief outline of a typical mediation:

  • Mediator Selection: A mediator will be notified and accept an assignment to mediate. VA employees must volunteer to serve as mediators. VA may pay for outside mediators if necessary. 
  • Pre-mediation Preparation: The mediator will review the files and familiarize him/herself with the case 
  • Mediator Introduction: Mediator will provide an explanation of the process.
  • Sharing Perspectives: Each party will have an opportunity to explain the situation from his/her point of view.
  • Issue Development: Identification of the issues and gaining a deeper understanding of each party’s concerns.
  • Problem Solving: Consideration of parties’ proposed solutions.
  • Agreement: Should the parties reach a solution and wish the terms to be documented, a written agreement will be prepared, reviewed by appropriate individuals including General/Regional Counsel and signed by all parties.
  • Closure: When the parties and/or the mediator have decided the session is completed, remaining administrative matters will be addressed and the parties will be asked to complete an evaluation of the process.
  • The mediators and/or the parties may or may not choose to utilize a Caucus. A Caucus is a private, confidential meeting between the mediator and each party during the mediation session.
Why should I use mediation?

Mediation can save time and resources for all involved in settling disputes which, if unresolved, may become unproductive and negatively impact the work environment. Mediation can improve communication and prevent future misunderstandings. Mediation provides an opportunity to discuss sensitive issues and concerns in a private setting. Mediation helps the parties to look realistically at the best and worst case alternatives to resolving the dispute, and when possible, develop mutually satisfactory solutions.

Mediation is your process. You make all of the decisions about how to resolve the situation. You should agree with all provisions in any settlement agreement you sign.

Mediation sessions can vary in length, from a few hours to continuing over a period of time after the first session is held, depending on the issues and the needs of the parties. Please be prepared to allocate sufficient time for this process. Note that official time is granted for the mediation of disputes and details will be provided by your ADR Program Manager.

Finally, participation in mediation does not waive your rights to pursue the matter in another forum; however, you must adhere to the time frames and regulations of that formal process. While mediation is designed to be an informal resolution process, it is entirely voluntary meaning the parties or the mediator may end the mediation any time.

Is mediation right for me?

To assess whether or not mediation is right for you, please consider the following:

  • Does the issue involve a continuing relationship?
  • Do the parties want it resolved quickly and informally?
  • Do the parties want a voice in shaping an agreement?
  • Are the parties prepared to offer more than one option to resolve their dispute?
Who should be present during the mediation? Parties can represent themselves and have a representative with them.
How should I prepare for mediation? Mediation offers the chance to let others know how you view the situation, and it also offers an opportunity to work out an agreement for the future. With this in mind, come to a mediation prepared to explain your views and ready to listen to the views of others. Remember that the mediation is your chance to put the issues behind you.