Guidelines for Conducting a Mediation Session

In a mediation session an impartial person or agency helps settle controversies between opposing interests, such as labor and management. Mediators meet with leaders from both sides and attempt to facilitate communication, promote understanding, and effect an agreement. The mediation agency has no authority to force agreements. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service is an example of an agency that fulfills the role described above.

How to Proceed:

  1. Identify, or help participants identify, a controversy to be submitted to mediation.
  2. Organize the mediation session by assigning individuals the following roles:

    a. head mediator and two other mediators
    b. chairperson and members of one party to the conflict
    c. chairperson and members of the other party to the conflict

  3. Explain to participants the purpose of the mediation session and the procedures to be followed.
  4. Allow time for participants to prepare for the session in accordance with their assigned roles.
  5. Conduct the mediation session using the following procedures:

    a. Independent meetings of each party to the controversy are held in the following manner:

    • The head mediator assigns to each group a mediator who will meet with that group independently to ascertain the position of the group in regard to the issue under mediation. After the chairperson has explained the group's position, the mediator may ask the chairperson or other members of the group to express their opinions or clarify their positions.
    • The head mediator directs the mediators to exchange groups in order to enable each of the mediators to listen to the position of the group with which (s)he has not met previously and to suggest changes in the positions of this group which might lead to agreement.
    • After each group has had the opportunity to meet with both mediators and to determine the position of the opposition, each group meets independently again without the presence of a mediator. During this meeting, each group considers the advice offered by the mediators in previous meetings and lists the group's position and reasoning in light of these considerations. When members of a group disagree on a point under consideration, the point may be decided by a majority vote. During this time, the two groups may also communicate with each other by sending a representative to a mediator or to the other group.

    b. Joint meetings of both parties to the controversy and mediators are held in the following manner:

    • The head mediator calls for a joint meeting of both parties and the mediators. The head mediator chairs the joint meeting.
    • The head mediator asks each chairperson to state the position and reasoning of his group in relation to a specific aspect of the conflict .
    • If both parties present the same position in regard to the aspect of the conflict under consideration, the head mediator declares agreement and selects another aspect of the conflict to discuss. If the two parties do not agree, the head mediator may postpone discussion of the issue or may suggest that each group meet independently, with or without the assistance of mediators, to reconsider its position.
    • If agreement is reached upon the various aspects of the conflict between the two parties, the mediation session will have been successful. If agreement is not reached and the two parties appear to have reached a stalemate, the head mediator can order the session adjourned.