Mediation Offers Many Benefits
When it comes to resolving business-related disputes, the method that offers the fastest and least expensive route to resolution would seem to be the best. That would call for the parties to work it out themselves as quickly as possible. That often is what they do.
But sometimes they reach an impasse and consider going to court. Certainly there are cases that must go to court—when the parties are so entrenched they cannot bargain with each other, for example, or when a legal precedent is deemed imperative.
Short of that, however, there may be many instances in which the step after direct discussions should be mediation.
Mediation is a process in which the parties negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement with the aid of a neutral facilitator or mediator. The parties generate ideas for solving the problem and make all the decisions; the mediator keeps them focused on the task.
Mediation enables the parties in a dispute to work together creatively. For example:
- A business and an employee can revise a job description or renegotiate compensation if that keeps a worker productive and comfortable with the job.
- Disputing businesses might redraft the specifications or delivery schedule for a product they believe brings value to both of their enterprises.
- A business and a customer may resolve product quality or billing issues through exchanges or revised payment schedules.
The parties in each case devise solutions the courts can’t provide. At the end of the mediation process, they each have a written, signed contract they can take to court if they need to.
Mediation is voluntary and confidential, which enables the parties to speak candidly about the real issues. It works because an impasse often may arise from miscommunication or mistrust rather than a lack of common ground. A trained, experienced neutral can help the parties overcome these barriers to agreement.
There are several reasons why mediation makes sense for business instead of going to court. One is that the vast majority of business disputes settle without trial. Why wait until the trial date and significant costs have been incurred to resolve the issues?
Another reason is that a case filed in court may very well be referred to mediation under Michigan court rules. Again, why wait?
In addition, mediation:
- Avoids many of the costs of litigation such as expert witness fees and time lost preparing for court
- Promotes resolution within hours, days or weeks rather than months or years
- Enables the parties to control the outcome
- Protects business assets, which may be vulnerable to a court judgment
- Preserves relationships important to business success
To avoid disputes or resolve them early, consider training your staff in collaborative communication and problem solving. These skills will help them anticipate disagreements and nip them in the bud.
As a next step, consider mediation. It taps the expertise of the parties themselves to move business forward.
For more information about mediation, contact the Michigan Business Mediation Program, at 517-485-2274 or email@example.com.
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David Gruber is the director of the Dispute
Resolution Education Resources, Inc., which
oversees the Michigan Business Mediation
Program. The MBMP is a professional mediation
service developed by DRAM, the State Bar
of Michigan Alternative Dispute Resolution
Section and the Michigan State University
Alternative Dispute Resolution Program.