Since each Mediation is strictly confidential, the names of the parties have been changed and the conflict has been altered to make it unrecognisable.

Conflict between colleagues

Ana, 58, sales director
and her colleague
Paula, 47, sales person

Conflict situation:
Ana and Paula are part of a company sales team. Moreover, Ana is also Paula’s boss and reports as the sales director to the general director. Both are strong personalities with two basic opposing needs. Ana is conservative and likes to fall back on tried and trusted methods. Paula, however, is more adventurous and innovative and likes to try out new ways of selling. The conflict began to unfold a few days after Paula joined the firm. The relationship deteriorated day-by-day until the situation became unbearable for both of them and the company.

The general-director informed them that either they would have to resolve the problem, or one of them would have to be replaced. He suggested Mediation and invited a conflict mediator to present a method. Ana and Paula decided to accept the suggestion. Since Mediation is confidential, just the mediator and the two parties were to have a frank conversation, while the general director would know nothing of the substance of the sessions. They would merely inform him when an agreement had been reached.

In Mediation, Ana and Paula discovered that the conflict was structural. Paula was unable to accept Ana as her boss, she thought the two were mainly colleagues, but if one had to be boss over the other, the roles should be inverted since she had the “best, more creative and innovative methods.” She could only accept orders from Ana if they were well explained. With this attitude, Ana felt undermined and resorted to an authoritarian style. They also discovered that in addition to their fundamentally clashing needs, they both shared one need in common: recognition. And that was where a bridge was found. They discovered something else that linked them: a common goal. Both were fully committed to achieving the maximum success for the company. They had somehow lost sight of this through their constant state of conflict on which they wasted a lot of energy.

In the Mediation Contract, Ana and Paula set out in detail how they wanted to work together and get along going forward. They set their common goal as well as their roles and different tasks. They agreed on rules of engagement and asked the company general-director to invest in a communications course that would be advantageous for a good working atmosphere and which would include, among other things, sales and communicating effectively with clients. It made more space for Paula’s creativity so that she could try out new methods and involve the general-director as an impartial figure when evaluating the respective results. They also arranged to go for lunch once a week to get to know one another better and build greater confidence.

It was a win-win all round for Ana, Paula, the general-director and the company. Ana and Paula managed to establish a healthy and motivational working relationship. From this new basis they became more productive and successful together, they were more satisfied and thereby continued to invest in fostering a good relationship between them.

Conflicts between colleagues lead to productivity losses of 20 to 30 per cent.