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The mediator can assist with interpersonal challenges between staff, students, or between students and staff (e.g. post-graduate supervision).

Alternatively, groups can also use this service. If you are a research group, team or department needing a facilitator to help work through communication issues, developing a team charter, or clarifying expectations of one another, a mediator can help.

Mediation is centred around supporting individuals and teams to communicate constructively and collaborate effectively. There is no one template for establishing good communication or resolving interpersonal challenges/conflict and Jennifer sees real benefit in working alongside people to find the best solution for their particular circumstances and for those involved.

If you are responsible for staff or students, you can contact the mediator for confidential advice and you can suggest that they can meet with the mediator to discuss their concerns. Coming to talk to the mediator or to a contact person does not commit a person to further action – the individual is in control of their choices at all times.

When mediation is used

Each person is able to state their perspective and to hear the perspective of the other person.

The emphasis is on identifying what went wrong in the past and then working out how things can work better for the future.

The role of the mediator is to support everyone involved to achieve an outcome that works for them.

The mediation takes the form of a conversation where difficulties and problems are discussed and resolved. The result is likely to be agreement about how to work together or do things in the future or about a solution. You may choose to have it written down and both oral and written agreements are confidential unless you and the other person agree to share them with someone else.

The mediator does not keep notes or records and nothing will be added to your (staff or student) records without your agreement.

How mediation can help

Mediation is designed to help you to decide what you want to do. It does not make judgements about you or anyone else. It also does not make decisions for you.

The mediator can help you if you have any sort of “behavioural” concern that relates to your work or study (or your living situation if you are in University accommodation) at Otago. For many people that is some sort of tension or conflict with another person. It may also be concerns about harassment or discrimination or problems about the academic supervision relationship. If you’re not sure whether the mediator can help you, ask – she will suggest other resources if she can’t help you herself.

Conflict resolution

Conflicts arise everywhere there are people. Many times we use the positive energy from our different perspectives and ideas to find new ways to do things and we may not label or see this as “conflict”.

Sometimes differences become a problem and get in the way of working together or one person feels that they have been unfairly treated. That’s where conflict resolution comes in. Our aim at Otago is to find ways of resolving difficulties and problems which work for all those involved. And that means that our needs and perspectives and experiences are recognised – as are those of the people we disagree with. It’s about “respect and dignity” for us all.

Improve your responses to conflict

There are things you can do to improve your responses to conflict.

  • Try not to be defensive – the other person may not be attacking you but your defensive behaviour may well lead them to do so.
  • Focus on the behaviour or the ideas which you disagree with – avoid labelling (and blaming) the other person.
  • Remember that the other person has a reason for their views and behaviour which makes sense to them – just as your reason does to you. Finding out the reason is a key to finding a solution.
  • Keep an open mind. The difficulty you are experiencing may be a misunderstanding. Where possible assume that the other person has good intentions.
  • Look for a solution which works for both of you.

Formal complaints

Sometimes the problem you are experiencing will be very serious and a formal complaint will be the appropriate response.

Mostly formal complaints make a relationship worse so, where you need to keep working with the other person, it’s usually better to try an informal approach, a way of resolving the problem and maintaining a functioning relationship.

Third party help

If your own self-help approach hasn’t worked – or you felt it was inappropriate or unwise to try it – getting a third person in to help may be the next step. You want that person to help you to solve the problem in a way you’re happy with, rather than taking over and giving you a decision. That way, you stay in control.

A contact person or the mediator won’t solve the problem for you; they will help you identify issues and strategies you want to use. One of those strategies may be mediation.

Learn more about the University's Ethical Behaviour Policy

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