Interest in mediation as an alternative strategy for managing conflict in the workplace has grown recently both in terms of theory, practice and government policy. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the efficacy of the process as practised in higher education, where its use is quite well developed. Its key aim is to increase the understanding of the process through a more qualitative sectorial analysis.
The research took place over a six-month period in 2011. It is based on the views and experiences of 36 representatives from 16 universities across the North of England and four senior managers from mediation providers serving those organisations. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews with an average duration of one hour were undertaken with the majority of respondents with a small number of slightly shorter telephone interviews. All interviews were fully transcribed.
The key findings of the research suggest that universities, whilst having similarities to other organisations in terms of the rationale, implementation and management of workplace mediation, have a practice also informed by some aspects specific to the sector. These include: the ethos of the sector, the nature of the academic labour process, its potential client base and also in its desire to network with others within the sector.
The study offers a more in-depth understanding of mediation as practised in a cross-section of organisations in one sector and is in contrast to the predominantly more quantitative approach adopted so far in the mediation literature in the UK.
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