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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Mediation Services
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 Office of Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity (ODEO)

Our Programs
The Cooperative Resolution Program (CRP)
Mediation Services

The Cooperative Resolution Program is a voluntary program that uses mediation to resolve disputes quickly and at the earliest possible stage. Click on the subject below to read more:
Understanding the Mediation Process
Preparation for Mediation
What is Mediation?
Reasons to Try Mediation
Advantages to Using Mediation
How Mediation Morks
- Complete Confidentiality
- Not Litigation
- A Focus on the Positive
- Resolution: A Written Agreement
- Who Can Ask for Mediation?
- Watch "A Better Way" Video

Understanding the Mediation Process
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process that is available to employees for early resolution of workplace disputes. Mediation is a voluntary, informal process of dispute resolution in which a neutral mediator intervenes in a conflict and assists the participants in reaching a mutually satisfactory resolution.

Some key characteristics of mediation include:
• It is a voluntary process that all parties must elect to pursue.

• Mediation is a collaborative problem solving process where the goal is to improve or restore working relationships and foster better communication, not to assign blame.

• The Research, Education, and Economics mission area, Cooperative Resolution Program, uses mediation as the primary dispute resolution process for early resolution of issues and concerns.

• Mediators do not impose decisions on the participants, but create a "safe" environment for the participants to hear each other out, express their issues, concerns and feelings, share information, and address underlying needs and problems.

• The goal is to effect a long lasting solution to the issues, usually through the use of a written agreement that each participant signs.

What to expect in a Cooperative Resolution Program mediation session:
• The mediation will take place in a neutral setting and will not normally be held in the workplace of either party to the mediation.

• The mediator will open the session by explaining the process and his/her role in the process.

• The mediator will ask that each party be allowed to explain their perspective on the matter without interruption.

• The mediator will attempt to get the parties to communicate with each other on unclear points or points of disagreement.

• The mediator may caucus, that is, meet with each party separately. This is done to allow the mediator to clarify the issues. All discussion in a caucus is confidential unless either party gives permission to divulge specific information.

• During the caucus, the mediator will gather information from each party. When the joint discussion is resumed, he/she will try to focus on areas of agreement between the parties.

• The mediator will try to get the parties to communicate with each other to generate a mutually agreed upon and mutually beneficial resolution of each matter of concern.

• If the parties reach agreement, the mediator will record the agreement as dictated by the parties and provide each party with a copy of the signed agreement.

• If no agreement is reached, the party bringing the concern may decide to pursue other avenues of redress such as the grievance or EEO complaint process. NOTE: If you are planning to file a grievance or complaint you should probably not wait until after mediation to do so your filing time may run out. The grievance or complaint can always be withdrawn if the mediation is successful.

Responsibilities of the Parties in a Mediation:
• Have a clear idea of the problem and possible remedies. Remedies must be personal and cannot demand discipline of other employees and officials.

• Have open communication. All information will be kept confidential by the mediator, EXCEPT information that relates to fraud, waste, abuse, or illegal acts.

• Listen to the other party and mediator before making decisions.

• Ask questions to clarify any statements that are unclear. Make every effort to determine the underlying issues.

Remember, the mediator is not a judge or deciding official. He/she does not decide the outcome. The parties in mediation develop terms of the agreement or decide no agreement can be reached. back to top

Preparation for Mediation
Here are several questions to assist you in preparing for mediation. We encourage parties to be open-minded and flexible (See Creating Collaboration). We suggest that you jot down some notes so that you don't overlook something that is important to you.

1. Regarding this issue, what is important to you?

2. What do you think is important to the other party? Try to envision how you would react and what you would want if you were in their situation.

3. What is a realistic outcome?

4. Identify and list as many creative options to resolve your issues as you can. Think of what the other party could do to make things work for you.

5. Prioritize the options allowing room for flexibility.

6. What could you do to make things work for the other party?

7. What can you live with, in order to resolve the situation?

A resolution is not "set in stone." The situation may change (ex. parties changing priorities, parties feeling differently) resulting in the parties wish to reconvene with or without a mediator to make adjustments in the details of the resolution. In some situations, we may not achieve resolution, but through increased understanding we can manage the situation with a more positive attitude. back to top

What is Mediation?
Mediation is a problem-solving process that focuses on the future and the working relationship of the parties. This process is designed to assist parties with creating their own mutually agreed upon resolution. It is an opportunity to resolve your concerns quickly, voluntarily, informally in a nonadversarial setting. In mediation, parties meet with a mediator to discuss issues and how they can attempt resolution. Mediation saves the parties time, expense, and the emotional stress of enduring unresolved conflict in the workplace. This opens lines of communication and creates an improved understanding for the parties. back to top

Reasons to Try Mediation
• Voluntary participation builds mutual respect and understanding

• An opportunity to resolve disputes before choosing established procedures

• Parties craft their own win-win resolution

• Improved communication will prevent future misunderstanding
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Advantages to Using Mediation

Mediation offers the following:
• An opportunity to be heard

• An opportunity to develop new ways of dealing with a dispute

• An opportunity to create your own solution
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How Mediation works
A mediator, trained in conflict resolution--specifically, the mediation process- -serves as an impartial party. He or she does not take sides or make a decision in the dispute. The mediator begins the mediation process with an introduction and presentation of ground rules for the session. Each involved person then tells about the situation from his or her personal perspective. back to top

•Complete Confidentiality
All conversations held during mediation and all materials produced are confidential. The mediator will not reveal anything that occurred during mediation. And, the parties agree in writing not to disclose information without the consent of the mediator and the other party. back to top

•Not Litigation
The mediator does not determine who is right or wrong. All points of view are valid and the parties work together to create a solution. Mediators do not provide legal advice. Each party may have a representative present during the mediation session. back to top

A Focus on the Positive
The mediation process acknowledges the emotional issues in a conflict and focuses on finding a workable solution to the dispute rather than on assigning blame. So, participation provides assistance in a constructive manner. back to top

Resolution: A Written Agreement
Because it does not favor either party, mediation facilitates resolution of a dispute in a manner satisfactory to all involved. When the parties agree to an acceptable solution, it is recorded in writing by the mediator and all parties sign it. back to top

Who Can Ask for Mediation?
Any employee, supervisor, or manager can request mediation if they face an issue or concern that needs to be resolved. The employee contacts the manager of the Cooperative Resolution Program, who appoints a mediator within 48 hours of the request. back to top

A Better Way Video

Please watch this short video to understand the advantages of Mediation.

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Last Modified: 11/26/2014
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