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Neutrality and satisfaction in the mediation session: party and mediator perspectives

Keri Szejda (School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arizona State University , Phoenix, Arizona, USA)
Amy S. Ebesu Hubbard (Department of Communicology, University of Hawaii , Honolulu, Hawaii, USA)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 25 July 2019

Issue publication date: 20 August 2019

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Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to investigate the relationship between perceptions of mediators acting symmetrically (treating parties equally) and transparently (providing an explanation of past or future behavior) with parties’ assessments of the neutrality of their mediator and satisfaction with the mediation process.

Design/methodology/approach

This mixed-method study surveyed parties and mediators from 35 naturally occurring mediation sessions at community mediation centers about their perceptions of neutrality, symmetry, transparency and satisfaction.

Findings

The results showed that parties overwhelmingly assessed their mediators as acting neutrally. Compared to parties’ assessments of mediator neutrality, mediators rated their own neutrality even higher. Symmetry and transparency were both positively correlated with parties’ assessment of mediator neutrality and also emerged as qualitative themes. Speaking order and talk time did not significantly correlate with perception of symmetry. Overall, symmetry appeared to be a more salient factor in parties’ assessment of mediator neutrality than transparency. Both neutrality and symmetry were positively correlated with party satisfaction with the mediation process, but transparency was not.

Research limitations/implications

The present study provides a foundation for future research in understanding neutrality from both parties and mediators’ perspectives. The primary limitation was a small sample size and possible selection bias in achieving the sample.

Practical implications

The study found that symmetry and transparency are useful strategies for managing party perceptions of mediator neutrality and party satisfaction with the mediation process.

Originality/value

This study is one of only a few empirical research studies that investigated the parties’ perspective of mediator neutrality. The study provides a foundation for future research in understanding neutrality from both parties and mediators’ perspectives.

Keywords

Citation

Szejda, K. and Ebesu Hubbard, A.S. (2019), "Neutrality and satisfaction in the mediation session: party and mediator perspectives", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 329-348. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-04-2018-0054

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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