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A Case Study of a Failed Mediation

Here's the overarching point: Don't play the 'who done it' game.

I will use a made up case study to explain my point.

Let’s say a business falls into administration. The ultimate reason why is because the relationship between the co-founders broke down. A ‘Mediator’ was brought in to help with the situation. It failed.

Here’s 4 reasons why.

1) The Mediator was a friend of a friend of a co-founder. “Get someone in that we know and trust, right?”.

2) The Mediator first took lots of time investigating the facts, getting the timelines totally straight, establishing justice and blame.

3) The Mediator noticed strong emotion rising, and steered away from them because emotions get in the way of good decision making.

4) With every turn, the Mediator was seeking the practical outcome, holding the view that “everyone is going to have to make compromises here”.

OK. Don’t get me wrong: bring in an investigator and enact formal procedure if there has been a breach in law or rights. But you’re asking for trouble and more heartache going procedural when the issue is relational.

Here’s 4 alternatives that are more conducive to a successful mediation.

1) The Mediator is totally unbiased, no dual relationships, and doesn’t work for the company.

2) The Mediator immediately seeks to understand beyond the parties positions, towards their underlying wants, needs, assumptions, feelings, judgements, values, identities and beliefs.

3) The Mediator turns towards strong emotions with curiosity and presence, as probably no-one has given them much time and space yet. After the exploration and validation of the underlying emotions, people are usually more open and receptive to collaborate.

4) The Mediator joins the parties in the belief the problem is unresolvable, as this validates their current thoughts and feelings. Being understood and seen facilitates to more ‘buy in’ about the potential for change. Outcomes are a natural progression when people reconnect.


Mediation is not about finding right and wrong with pseudo-legalism.

Mediation is about having the difficult conversations that resolve the underlying relationship issues, misunderstandings, and assumptions.

This leads to reconnection and a future together.


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