Workplace Mediation in Multinational, Multicultural Organisations

Posted on: May 15th, 2023

Workplaces composed of individuals from different countries and with diverse cultures can present particular challenges to the task of maintaining strong interpersonal relationships. Some of the main causes of conflict in any working environment are differing expectations, personal and professional standards, conflict styles, and personalities: coupled with limitations around people’s skills in a common second language, we know all too well that conflict in such settings can be quick to develop and difficult to resolve.

In our own work with multinational, multicultural organisations, especially when made up of ex-patriot staff members, there is also the issue of the Golden Cage phenomenon. Employees may be well rewarded, but are living far from home; their family members are settled in local schools, workplaces, and social lives. The individual is not getting along with colleagues, with whom they feel little close connection or relationship. They start to feel bored, dissatisfied, and often trapped. It is in these circumstances that they are more likely to tolerate others’ annoying or vexatious conduct, when in another setting they might be more inclined to voice their irritation and do something about it.

Most of the workplace conflict that we mediate, especially with EU Mediation, our mainland European arm, has got to boiling point mainly because it has not been addressed early enough, and mainly because of the Golden Cage. People have kept their heads down, maintaining good-enough working relationships through gritted teeth and with clenched fists, until something finally has to give. Only then do they either address things directly with a colleague, manager, or report, running the risk of escalation or worse, or else they turn to the organisation’s formal processes, with the ensuing distraction, blame-tennis, and ultimately worsened relationships that these processes can bring.

Mediation of course offers an alternative that is highly cost-effective, private, free of blame, and specifically directed at strengthening people’s all-important working relationships. So long as people trust that it will work, provided they get encouragement to use it, and if they choose a professional and committed mediation provider, mediation will give people who may have differing values, standards, and expectations a brilliant opportunity to understand and to be understood by colleagues and others with whom relationships are deteriorating or have already broken down.

The voluntariness of people’s participation ensures that they remain committed to making it work; the mediator’s impartiality supports both parties to craft their own solutions to what can be often be quite personal fall-outs, and the confidentiality around the whole process means that people can speak freely and without concern that their words will be taken out of context, misconstrued or used against them. When communication has broken down, mediation provides a common language to rebuild dialogue, to clear the air, and to support people to start collaborating again.


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