In our mediation practice, we have noticed an increase in the number of people who believe they have been bullied. Frequently, allegations of bullying or harassment will be met by a counterclaim of similar behavior. Both parties may genuinely believe that they are victims of each other, regardless of their relative status within the organisation. But maintaining a victim stance is hard work. People who see themselves as victims find it hard to listen to and acknowledge each other’s points of view. And the more they become entrenched in their positions, the harder mediation becomes.
Here is a simple rule of thumb: the earlier the mediation, the greater its chances of success. If a mediation is called as soon as the problems surface, the employees involved are more likely to display some residual goodwill towards each other. If a formal complaint has been lodged, then an investigation is the next logical step. During an investigation people are questioned, witnesses are interviewed, and all those involved tend to harden their positions. This creates further tensions that may impede mediation. If possible, seek assistance from a skilled mediator before the dispute escalates to the point where one party feels the need to lodge a written grievance.