Sexual harassment in the workplace was the biggest talking point of 2017, and looks set to be a huge issue in 2018 too. The question of how organizations could have gone on so long without dealing with this problem was a source of disbelief. Sadly, employees reported that they experienced employers as unsupportive when reporting their problem and often suffered retaliation.
Sexual harassment is such an overwhelming and widespread problem that organizations need support dealing with it. Individuals with a problem need to feel supported, but so too do people on the frontline of dealing with the problem. Lack of guidelines for people dealing with employee conflict can put employees under enormous amounts of stress. At Boileau Conflict Solutions, we analyze conflict using a number of scientific approaches that help us to find solutions, but also prevent conflict from escalating. One method we use is game theory, which deals with conflict’s roots in differing interests. When sexual harassment strikes, mediation can be a way of separating these interests and determining where duty lies. For example, HR might feel their duty to the organization and to the employee is in conflict. If conflict escalates to litigation, employers can be accused of a lack of care for employees. If mediation enters before conflict escalates, it offers a way of structuring conflict resolution so that it is handled fairly and confidentially and those on the frontline don’t take on an unnecessary burden. If conflict has reached later stages and employees are seeking damages from employers, sexual harassment mediation provides a more sensitive and confidential way of resolving issues and negotiating damages. Sometimes a company may be able to provide victims with non-monetary compensation, such as pledging to improve conditions in the workplace.
Sexual harassment is a sensitive issue that runs the gamut from inappropriate comments or behavior, to more systematic abuses of power, belittling and sidelining to serious assault. It is difficult to anticipate every situation and to respond appropriately to the level of abuse. What is a firing issue for some may be a disciplinary issue for others. There may be legal consequences of choosing either of these paths as an employer in sexual harassment cases. Mediation provides a private and confidential space to work out these issues to avoid more serious conflict or mediate serious conflict that might otherwise end in litigation.
Mediation is the best way to contain conflict as it leaves no doubt of the fairness of the process. The mediator is not a company employee and is trained to be a neutral who facilitates people in conflict to work out their differences. Mediation is a good cure for any conflict because it is informal and can be tailored to the needs of the conflict. It may facilitate more open discussion if parties are able to be in the same room together. If conflict is in the early stages, it’s possible to preserve working and business relationships. If conflict is more charged, the mediator can shuttle back and forth between two parties to help negotiate a resolution. Perhaps the most powerful thing about mediation is that it leverages psychological and conflict resolution tools that the legal process cannot. The key word is sustainability. With sexual harassment cases, especially if the harassment is less severe and colleagues will continue to work together, solutions must be sustainable to prevent the outbreak of future conflict.
As well as healing conflict, mediation can provide support for people in the company working with employees, such as those in HR. At Boileau Conflict Solutions, we negotiate conflicts using game theory to take into account all interests. People in HR dealing with sensitive conflicts don’t have to feel out of their depth and on the defensive. Mediation may involve HR in negotiations if their role is relevant to the conflict. The other option is that a company can determine when mediation should be offered to employees so HR doesn’t have to bear the burden of severe conflicts.
Who We Are and How We Can Help
We are a group of well-educated mediators and negotiators with financial, legal and psychological backgrounds, who employ careful scientific, mathematical and legal knowledge to resolve disputes and manage relationships. We use unique approaches informed by game theory, psychoanalysis and communication theory to resolve disputes sustainably. We mediate in a variety of business environments and at every stage of the dispute, from preventative mediation to establish good policy in beginning start-ups, to ongoing conflict management. Corporate mediation is a facilitative, open process where the mediator encourages resolution and growth in perspective. We are available 7 days a week to help resolve your dispute at urgent notice and in a fast and efficient manner. Please contact us at our offices in Boulder CO, Campbell, CA, Irvine CA and Beverly Hills, CA to see how we can help. We are also available via Zoom, Facetime and telephone and can resolve disputes remotely.