Human Resources

Appendix 2


An independent third party or mediator can sometimes help resolve performance management issues.  Mediation is a voluntary process where the mediator helps two or more people in dispute to attempt to reach an agreement.  Any agreement comes from those in dispute, not from the mediator. The mediator is not there to judge, to say one person is right and the other wrong, or to tell those involved in the mediation what they should do. The mediator is in charge of the process of seeking to resolve the problem but not the outcome.

Mediation is appropriate in specific circumstances. It is not a means to absolve managers of their responsibilities. Mediators may be employees of the College who are trained and accredited by an external mediation service to act as internal mediators in addition to their normal jobs. Alternatively, they may be from an external mediation provider. They can work individually or in pairs as co-mediators. Where mediation is used during a performance management procedure, the formal process will be temporarily suspended pending the outcome of the mediation.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for when mediation is appropriate but it can be used:

  • for conflict involving colleagues of a similar job or grade, or between a manager and a member of their staff;
  • at any stage in the conflict as long as any ongoing formal procedures are temporarily held in abeyance;
  • to rebuild relationships after a formal dispute has been resolved;
  • to address a range of issues, including relationship breakdown; personality clashes; communication problems; and minor infringement of the Dignity at Work and Study policy.

In some situations, the combination of performance management and grievance issues can become blurred.

The College may prefer to tackle the underlying relationship issues by means of mediation.

In such cases the manager of the manager may be called to intervene and to facilitate agreement as to the appropriate course of action.

Mediation may not be suitable if:

  • the grounds for the performance management case are manifestly clear and mediation would serve no useful purpose;
  • used as a first resort, because people should be encouraged to speak to each other and talk to their manager before they seek a solution via mediation;
  • it is used by a manager to avoid their managerial responsibilities;
  • a decision about right or wrong is needed, for example where there is possible criminal activity;
  • an individual is raising a complaint under the College’s Dignity at Work and Study policy that warrants formal investigation;
  • the parties do not have the power to settle the issue;
  • one side is completely intransigent and using mediation will only raise unrealistic expectations of a positive outcome.

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The HR team is based on the first floor of Egmont House
Postal address: Human Resources, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX