How Do We Choose A Mediator Then?
A student asked while I guest lectured a group of NUS Business School MSc. Management students. We had earlier discussed differences between facilitative and evaluation mediation, and the role lawyers play in mediation. Many took a keen interest in a mediator’s ability to remain neutral and impartial.
Ultimately, I reminded these students that businesses need to be judicious in their choice of mediators and legal representation by having a clear analysis of whether “the problem” is truly the problem, or if “the people” are really the problem.
If the dispute is mostly substantive in nature, and disputants do require an external opinion, expert mediators may be considered to conduct reality checks and offer evaluations if and when necessary.
If however, both disputants and legal counsels are subject matter experts and still have difficulty reaching a consensus through negotiation, I will be more cautious by appointing a mediator skilled in managing emotions, facilitating communication and nurturing relationships.
Regardless of the mediator’s style, party consensus and autonomy is paramount. Mediators add value by forging solutions while preserving multiple perspectives of the truth. It is never becoming of a professional mediator to assert his or her personal opinions on the parties, especially if unsolicited.