Caucus with Care: The Impact of Pre-Mediation Caucuses on Conflict Resolution

Roderick I. Swaab

Jeanne M. Brett
Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management


IACM 2007 Meetings Paper


Mediation training does not acknowledge the potential of private meetings between mediator and disputants before a joint session. However, analyses of 1381 labor and family mediations in The Netherlands show that the use of private meetings to establish rapport prior to the mediation positively impact the quality of settlement because they help resolve interpersonal and goal conflict. The results also show that within the context of labor mediations, mediators should use these initial caucuses to establish trust and not to encourage settlement proposals. Ironically, these initial caucuses were least likely to be used when conflict was high, and yet when used, conflict was reduced.

Analyses of the frequency of caucusing during the mediation revealed a much weaker effect. Although such caucusing reduced interpersonal conflict in family mediation, no such effect was present in labor mediation. Moreover, these caucuses during the joint session should be used to establish trust with disputants and not to encourage settlement proposals. Taken together, the results show that mediators should reconsider the role of caucusing in mediation, and carefully match the timing and purpose of the caucus with the context of mediation.

Caucus with Care- The Impact of Pre-Mediation Caucuses on Conflict Resolution

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