Does Transformative Mediation ‘work’ in the Workplace?

The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ backed by evidence from scientific research:

The United States Postal Service chose transformative mediation REDRESS for the national model…  Since USPS implemented the mediation program, formal complaints of discrimination have dropped from a high of about 14,000 a year to under 10,000 a year. A statistical analysis demonstrated that the turning point in this trend and subsequent drop in formal complaints correlated with implementation of the program in each geographic district.  In other words, it is fair to conclude that the program caused the drop in complaint filings. This trend suggests that mediation has a positive impact in that these complaints are resolved through mediation at the informal complaint stage and do not reach the formal complaint stage; hence, there is a drop in formal complaint filings…

The participants in mediation may be learning conflict management skills to take back to the workplace. There is evidence of this ‘upstream effect’ from mediation.  Controlling for changes in the size of the workforce, informal EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] complaint filings have dropped 30 percent since their peak before USPS implemented REDRESS.  There is also evidence of changes in the way that supervisors describe how they handle conflict at the workplace after REDRESS. There are reports of more listening, more openness to expressions of emotion, and less top-down hierarchical response to conflict. Finally, there has been a gradual increase in efforts by the parties to a dispute to resolve it after a request for mediation is made, but before they get to the table.    This too is evidence that conflict management skills are moving upstream.

Bingham, L.B. (2010). Mediation at work: transforming the USPS. In Folger, J., R.A.B. Bush,  D. Della Noce (Ed.), Transformative mediation: A sourcebook (pp. 321-337). New York: Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation; Association for Conflict Resolution.

So, where’s the evidence for other approaches to the mediation process?