A question (or sometimes criticism) I often hear about mediation is that the parties could just negotiate the solution out by themselves. In some cases, this is true. However, in the majority of cases which reach impasse, a mediator can be very helpful.
Let’s take the recent settlement in the National Hockey League (NHL) player lockout. While I won’t present all the issue at stake, as background the owners locked out the players union when their last contract expired. The sides had been talking for about 5 months with little progress and a lot of animosity built up. The season was on the verge of complete cancellation.
Enter super sports mediator Scot L. Beckenbaugh, deputy director for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). Beckenbaugh had already helped with resolving other recent sport related labor impasses (National Football League referees and National Basketball Association players). Both sides in the NHL dispute credit Beckenbaugh’s persistence in leading them to a settlement. Beckenbaugh essentially kept caucusing (shuttle diplomacy) with the sides until they were able to sit across from each other and finalize a deal (or at least the framework).
Here’s the most insightful quote about how the mediator helped the process from Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey (emphasis mine):
“Scot was great for a number of reasons. When it got to points where you didn’t know what to do next – or you had an idea but you didn’t know if it might upset the other side – you could go to him and talk to him about it and there was a way to work your ideas through a third party who was able to really help the process.”
If you need assistance with a dispute, please contact me.