Mediation in the U.S. Government

I just did two mediation workshops at the EEOC’s Excel conference, held this year in Orlando, Florida. I have now become acquainted, though not yet familiar, with all the mediation that takes place within the Federal government. It sounds like most federal agencies have mediation programs in place, replete with trained, experienced mediators, including military bases and VA hospitals. I was impressed with the caliber of the mediators I met. My workshops built on the Riskin grid, encouraging mediators to consider how they could move beyond their favorite style of mediation when the situation requires—and how to recognize that. One of the Federal government’s policies regarding employee disputes is that the mediator must come from another agency. This is presumably to ensure the mediator’s neutrality and impartiality, and probably also aids in mediator confidentiality. But, as we discussed in one of our workshops, it deprives the parties of the chance to choose someone from within their agency who understands the culture, jargon, etc. Thus, one facet of party self-determination—the choice of mediator—is compromised somewhat. Nevertheless, it was encouraging to hear how well mediation has become integrated into the Federal government workplace.

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