EACC News

Two Views: Mediation

EACC members think and act cross border. In this spirit, Two Views confronts perspectives of professionals from two different geographies, functions or sectors on a subject relevant to transatlantic business. 

With work environments stressed with digital transformation, and on its heels the COVID crisis, companies are increasingly turning to mediation, not just for conflict resolution, but as a way of ensuring smooth project execution. Our two experts, one a mediator and lawyer in a Paris law firm and the other providing innovative solutions in her role as head of Project Facilitation in a large global corporation, share their views with us. 

Morgane Mondolfo


Mediator, Partner - Employment Law, Squadra Avocats

Sophie Cléjan


Head of Project Facilitation, Orange

 

1/ What is business mediation and how does it help companies?

Morgane Mondolfo

Despite an increasing sensitivity to issues relating to the psychological aspects of work relationships, the cost of conflicts in the workplace remains underestimated in most organizations and goes generally unmonitored. 

The parallels between healthy work environments and company performance are clear. Absenteeism, lower productivity and even psychological or sexual harassment, discriminations, industrial accidents, are often rooted in problematic work environments. A manager typically spends 30% of his working time on conflict resolutions, and 85% of employees are facing conflicts at the workplace on a recurrent basis.

Mediation is based on the premise that it is more advantageous for all concerned to negotiate than to confront. It is a tool designed to maintain or restore dialogue when conflicts arise and to ultimately find adequate and long-term solutions. In the legal sphere, it was developed in order that certain cases be resolved without the expense and time required by a court trial.

Sophie Cléjan

Business mediation is often perceived as conflict resolution. My role at Orange is better described as project facilitation. Ambitious and complicated projects are constantly underway in our company, with associated risks including costly delays or even cancellations when things don’t go as planned. The human factor has been determined to be responsible for 50% of these types of problems — hence the value of project facilitation.

Issues arise not because people don’t get along, but because of misunderstandings about roles and responsibilities, project scope, governance or finance. Individuals also bring their respective opinions, values and interests to the project, and these are not necessarily clear to the others at the outset.

Many problems can, and have been, anticipated and avoided. Our methodology is based on the principles of non-violent communication. We encourage the key players in large strategic projects to have a look at the project through the eyes of the other team members. We don’t shy away from potential conflicts or sensitive subjects, because putting differing perspectives on the table often leads to a solution!

2/ Do you have an example of a situation in which project facilitation or mediation resulted in a positive outcome?

Morgane Mondolfo

The cases I work on usually concern employment and labor matters. Cases can drag on for years, in particular when decisions are appealed. I have worked on several recent cases where effective mediation helped us wrap up a case which otherwise would have cost our clients a good deal more expense and time. 

I worked as a mediator on a case recently which involved parties working in the same business sector. The pressure to reach an agreement was high. A condemnation for the company would have resulted in the payment of significant damages for unfair dismissal and management package. The Court of appeals judge suggested mediation, which was initially met with resistance on the part of both parties. Ultimately, however, the mediation process successfully shifted the approach to one where cooperation and exploration of practical solutions led to a speedy and effective resolution of the dispute.

Sophie Cléjan

A couple of examples come to mind:

I was brought in to facilitate a project this past year concerning the company’s real estate assets. It was a complex project involving many legal and contractual issues. The goal was to streamline processes in order to respect the project’s timeline and enable the smooth functioning of the team. Over the course of the three-month facilitation mission, participants engaged in clear and constructive dialogue about the execution of the project. The result was effective decision making and increased efficiency.

Another recent project involved a major new marketing drive for the group. Before beginning work on the project, the team took a day out to improve relationships within the group. People’s roles were clarified and their respective visions for the project were voiced. Potential disagreements were thus put on the table, sensitizing team members to other people’s interests and concerns. This session established a working dynamic which ultimately paid dividends in terms of the subsequent fluid execution of the project.

3/ What trends do you see emerging in the project mediation/facilitation domain?

Morgane Mondolfo

Some interesting legaltech companies are offering digital solutions for low-level disputes in commercial and consumer matters. I see this as part of a global trend toward increased awareness of the value of mediation.

The widespread acceptance of remote working as well as the digital transformation have had profound impacts on work methods worldwide. These changes have also led to the development of remote mediation, facilitating cross-border mediation — particularly helpful to global organizations. Mediation techniques are adjusting to these developments. Mediation is a mindset that is contributing to the smooth operation of global business, and deserves to be promoted among managers.

In parallel, lawyers will have to be trained in order to maximize success rates in reaching agreements through mediation as they are usually involved in the process and have to advise their clients in order to reach solid agreements.

Sophie Cléjan

At Orange, management has stepped up and addressed the issue of interpersonal difficulties. From what I have seen elsewhere, project facilitation initiatives vary in approach and scope. In some instances, facilitation techniques are used but not named as such. The decision to establish a dedicated project facilitation function must come from upper management and this often involves a cultural hurdle because of the fear of admitting that human relationships can lead to problems.

Mediation is a tool that can benefit all types of communities or groups. The role of the mediator is to ease tensions by facilitating and encouraging dialogue. The process involves looking closely at those moments when problems arise and enabling honest discussion. More globally it is about addressing the difficulties inherent in working relationships. Mediation is both a state of mind and a rigorous method designed to enable people to go from a will to convince to an ability to understand.

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Morgane Mondolfo
Morgane Mondolfo | LinkedIn

&

Sophie Cléjan
Sophie Cléjan | LinkedIn

 

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Produced in collaboration with EACC Paris member, Fine Line Communications.

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