Internal mediators need to be adequately skilled to handle cases
Internal mediators need to be adequately skilled to handle cases
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While an increasing number of organisations become desirous of getting disputes resolved through the implementation of internal conflict management systems, the use of internal or in-house mediators generates a dilemma.

Increasingly, oragnisations are investing in training of various personnel, including human resource managers, and middle to top level managers to serve as mediators, to support conflict management programmes in the organisation.

The merits and demerits of using trained in-house mediators to settle organisational disputes, vis-a-vis engaging external mediators, creates a dilemma that employers have to deal with.

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The use of trained internal mediators has a number of advantages including the fact that they don’t generate any cost, called to work anytime and serve as watchdogs against internal conflicts.

Experts believe that training internal mediators increases the level of conflict management and conflict resolution skills in the organisation, indicating that a fellow-staff-member mediator can satisfactorily mediate some disputes.

However, the disadvantages of that approach have far-reaching repercussions which organisations often avoid.

The downside of in-house mediators is linked to the effects of limited skills, impartiality and confidentiality.

Limited skills

Studies show that internal mediators do not have the requisite skills to handle complex disputes in an organisation.

This is because, with minimal training and experience, an in-house mediator may not have the skills to mediate more complex or serious disputes effectively because they have other work duties to perform, they may not have adequate time and attention to devote to the case and mediation process.

As a result, a conflict that could have been successfully settled by an experienced external mediator would remain unresolved, while the staff may lose confidence in the mediation process.


As a co-worker, an internal mediator cannot be completely impartial. The disputing parties cannot consider their co-worker as an internal mediator to be fully impartial.

Although it can be argued that they are dealt with in large corporations where there could be considerable distance between the internal mediator’s working space and that of the disputing parties, their respective organisational lines could relate.

Whatever the case may be, disputing employees will behave differently towards an internal mediator, considered as a fellow employee, and an external mediator.

In the same way, the internal mediator is also likely to behave differently than an external mediator based on his or her perception of the parties as fellow employees.

This behaviour pattern can adversely affect the mediation process.


As the most vital element in mediation, confidentiality could be jeopardised because the internal mediator is a fellow worker.

Even if the disputing workers trust the internal mediator not to reveal any details of the mediation to others, the internal mediator will remain privy to the details of the mediation wearing the dual hat of a mediator and co-worker.

All of the parties involved would always be aware of this and will have to deal with this shared knowledge as they continue to work together in the same organisation.

This dual relationship between the parties and the internal mediator risks the success of the mediation and can affect the future working relationship.

Giving these factors, the option of using internal mediators should be taken based on critical analysis and arrangement which would ensure that the in-house mediator would be able to perform optimally.


Due to the disadvantages, it would be appropriate for organisations to engage both internal and external mediators in handling different nature of cases.

In order not to lose the investment made in the training of internal mediators, the in-house mediators could be engaged in dealing with minor conflicts in the workplace. This will ensure that minor disputes among employees are amicably settled to prevent them from growing into complex organisational conflicts.

External mediators can be engaged to mediate the serious or complex disputes, to guarantee successful resolution.

By: Nii Adotey/  

VIANii Adotey
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ADR Daily is a specialized news portal with a focus on providing authentic news, information and research analysis on Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR), Human Resource Management (HRM) and Industrial Relations Management (IRM) in Ghana and beyond. This platform serves as an information resource base for the progress of the ADR, HRM and IRM industries, and seeks to promote professionalism in ADR practice by supporting a network of ADR professionals within and across nations and continents. ADR Daily keenly encourages the mass adoption of ADR mechanisms, particularly negotiation, mediation and arbitration for the resolution of disputes in all spheres, through the publication of industry news and information, as well as by deploying innovative awareness creation engagements.