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What is Mediation?

Mediation is an effort by the participants to reach an agreement through negotiation and discussion. Mediation is not an adversarial process. Participants work together at cooperative problem solving, and the participants, not the mediator, control the outcome. A settlement is based upon the voluntary agreement of the participants.

Roles of the Mediator and Participants

The mediator is an impartial and neutral facilitator, not a decision maker. The primary role of the mediator is to guide the process and help the participants discuss the issues in a constructive manner that will enable them to negotiate a mutually agreeable and beneficial settlement. A mediation can be led by a single mediator or by co-mediators who work as a team.

The success of a mediation depends upon the participants' willingness and ability to work together to creatively and cooperatively resolve their dispute. To achieve this goal, the participants must be willing to

The Mediation Process

The process may vary slightly for different mediators, depending upon their training and experiences. Generally, participants can expect the following format.

It is important to follow the steps in the process in an orderly fashion. Participants often make the mistake of jumping from describing the situation to looking for solutions. Skipping the intermediate steps often leads to frustration and risks locking the participants into positions that derail a successful mediation. The mediator's role is to keep the participants on track, but their cooperation is essential.

Generally, the mediation is face-to-face. At times, the mediator may decide to discuss issues with each participant separately in a private caucus. The participants may also request a private caucus. For example, if one of the participants is feeling overwhelmed, he or she may request a private caucus to discuss the problem with the mediator.


Confidentiality will be discussed at the beginning of each mediation. An agreement will be reached by all participants concerning how the participants will maintain the confidentiality of the process. The mediator holds information obtained in the mediation confidential to the extent allowed by law.

Legal Counsel

Each participant may consult an attorney for advice about his or her legal interests. Although attorneys are not present at the mediation sessions, each participant is encouraged to have his or her attorney review the settlement agreement prior to signing. Mediators do not provide legal advice or counsel.

Interest-Based Negotiation Strategies vs. Positional Bargaining Negotiation Strategies

The mediators at NC State are trained in interest-based negotiation strategies. To understand this type of negotiation strategy, it is helpful to compare it to positional bargaining negotiation strategies.

In positional bargaining, the parties stake out a position and try to get an agreement as close to their position as possible. There are four possible outcomes: win/lose, lose/win, lose/lose, or compromise. A compromise agreement, with each party backing off their positions little by little until they agree, is the optimum overall result that can be expected. Positional bargaining is characterized by the following type of exchange between participants: "I want XYZ!" "I'm not giving you XYZ!" Someone may win; someone may lose; both may lose, or a compromise may be reached, but neither party is likely to get everything he or she needs.

Interest-based negotiation, on the other hand, looks beyond the participants' positions, and asks "Why does he want XYZ?" and "Why can't or won't she give him XYZ?" By examining the underlying interests and needs of the participants, it is possible to generate a number of solutions designed to meet those interests and needs. Instead of working from one position, the participants explore many options. Finding the solution that meets the needs and interests of all participants is the goal of interest-based negotiation and results in a win/win resolution of the dispute.

The Benefits of Mediation vs. Grievance

In the event that the mediation does not succeed, the parties are free to pursue the same legal remedies they had before they entered into mediation. (Note: Mediation does not extend the time for filing a grievance.)

What Can Be Mediated?

Not all disputes can be mediated, and not all issues in a dispute can be mediated. Issues that can be negotiated include:

Some concerns can be discussed, but not negotiated.

Issues that usually cannot be mediated include:

The NC State Faculty Mediation Team

NC State has a team of faculty members who are trained mediators. They volunteer their time to promote collegial relationships within the university environment.

Richard H. Bernhard, Professor
Industrial & Systems Engineering
NCSU Campus Box 7906

Harriette O. Griffin, Lecturer
Accounting-College of Management
103 C Nelson Hall
NCSU Campus Box 8113

Jessica K. Jameson, Assistant Professor
202 Winston Hall
NCSU Campus Box 8104

George H. Wahl, Jr., Professor and Past Chair of the Faculty
328 Dabney Hall
NCSU Campus Box 8204

NC State University Administrative Regulations -- Mediation Procedures for Faculty and Staff

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