Working it out

Remember when Viceroy claimed its smokers “would rather fight than switch?”

If you’d rather fight, you should litigate. However, if you think that a less contentious and less costly approach to resolving disputes is desirable, you’re probably a candidate for mediation.

Mediation is a dispute resolution process in which a neutral person assists the disagreeing parties in finding a mutually acceptable solution. Mediation is best described as facilitated negotiation.

Parties in dispute can mediate at any time. Successful prelitigation mediation can save litigation-related expenses, the emotional toll associated with going to court, and the relationship, if that is important, of the parties.

Any dispute can be mediated. The only requirement is that each party be willing to discuss its issues. Parties who can successfully mediate include employer/employee, business/supplier, business/business and consumer/business.

If disputes involving your business become contentious, your business can experience a disruption. Business relationships may be severed. Customers may take their business to a competitor.

The workplace is rife with potential for not only employer/employee conflict but also management conflict. Many small businesses are made up of family members or a small group of owners. If an internal dispute arises among management, the distraction can affect profits.

A leadership team in conflict damages employee morale and productivity. In the early stages of a dispute, before tempers flare and positions harden, why not propose mediation?

Mediation has the unique potential to simultaneously resolve the dispute and improve relationships. A skilled mediator will help the parties analyze the concerns that underlie disputed issues. When each side hears the concerns of the other(s), each may discover the disputed issues can be easily resolved. If they can’t be, the mediator will help them explore options. Mediation has a high potential to resolve the dispute if the parties are motivated to find a solution.

For example, small business owners may determine that they can no longer continue their business relationship. Business owners who mediate a business dissolution will save an enormous expenditure of time and money.

In mediation, the parties in conflict control their destiny and make their own decisions. A properly conducted mediation can begin to mend fractured relationships.

Investing in mediation can save the significant expense associated with other dispute resolution forums.

Robert G. Reese is a Canton-based attorney and mediator. As a career Secret Service agent, he developed fact-finding skills (in addition to protecting presidents), and has expertise in resolving all types of disputes. He can be reached at (330) 491-9999.