Managers who mediate : exploring perceptions of managerial mediation : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the Masters in Business Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North

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Massey University
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Managers worldwide are increasingly expected to take on conflict management responsibilities, and to use early interventions such as informal mediation to address interpersonal conflicts which arise in the workplace in order to prevent them from escalating (Arnold, 2007; Khan, 2012; O’Donnell, 2009; Poitras, Hill, Hamel, & Pelletier, 2015; Teague & Roche, 2012; WorkSafe, 2017). Previous studies have examined this facet of the managerial role from the perspective of employees who have had disputes mediated by their direct supervisor (Poitras et al., 2015), and from the perspective of senior managers and human resource (HR) personnel (Teague & Roche, 2012). While it is acknowledged that the manager-mediator role is a complex one, little is known about how managers themselves perceive their role as informal mediators, nor about how they navigate its complexities. This qualitative study draws on semi-structured interviews with eleven nurse manager-mediators in order to explore their perceptions of managerial mediation. Specifically, the study sought to find out what skills they consider important for effective managerial mediation, and how their managerial role influences their ability to conduct this aspect of their responsibilities. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the interviews. The findings of this study highlight an important link between management style and mediation skills, indicating that collaborative, people-centred management approaches create an environment in which managerial mediation can take place. In addition, the findings indicate that importance specific mediation skills are essential for conducting effective managerial mediation. In exploring how the role of the manager influences the ability to conduct managerial mediation, the study illuminates the central role of trust in fostering employees’ perception of fairness during managerial mediation processes. Furthermore, the study emphasises the overarching role played by organisational policies and values in encouraging and supporting managerial mediation. In light of these findings, the study recommends that managers require training in specific management and communication skills, as well as in mediation skills, if they are to be able to undertake informal managerial mediation processes. It also recommends that managerial mediation needs to be seen as part of a conflict management system which is supported by senior management and HR personnel, as well as by organisational policies and values.
Conflict management, Mediation, New Zealand, Nurse administrators, Attitudes