Inside the mediation room – efficiency, voice and equity in workplace mediation
Existing research into workplace mediation in the UK has tended to focus on managerial perceptions. Consequently, there has been a unitarist emphasis on the business case for mediation, revolving around its alleged superior efficiency properties compared to conventional rights-based procedures. This paper develops the research agenda in two respects: first, it foregrounds the experiences of participants in mediation through 25 interviews with individuals drawn from a variety of contexts. Second, it extends the analysis beyond the efficiency of mediation to consider issues of voice and equity. In doing so it explores the role played by mediation within the negotiation and re-negotiation of workplace relations and also the way in which it shapes, and is shaped by, power and control. In the cases examined in the paper, mediation not only facilitated employee voice, but allowed subordinates to challenge the authority of supervisors and line managers. However, the influence of mediation on the balance of workplace power relations outside the mediation room was much more limited.