Mediation's Potential to Reduce Occupational Stress: A New Perspective

Date01 July 2015
Published date01 July 2015
C R Q, vol. 32, no. 4, Summer 2015 361
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. and the Association for Confl ict Resolution
Published online in Wiley Online Library ( • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21121
Mediation’s Potential to Reduce Occupational Stress:
A New Perspective
Timea Tallodi
is article is a response to several factors: the emergence of occupational
stress as a main theme in a qualitative study involving parties to work-
place mediation; the recognition that mediation, being underpinned by
psychological stress models, can reduce occupational stress; and a lack
of studies investigating mediation’s potential to alleviate occupational
stress. Linking mediation’s main qualities to interactional and transac-
tional models of stress, the article provides a new angle on mediation’s
dynamics. Findings are illustrated by extracts from interviews. Sugges-
tions are made as to ways in which workplace mediation might be used
more proactively in relation to stress.
The benefi ts of workplace mediation can be far-reaching, since it often
leads to positive changes in working relationships, immediate renewal
of performance, and improvement of morale (Dolder 2004; Doherty and
Guyler 2008). Additionally, at the organizational level, mediation can help
create a problem-solving culture and improve the emotional health of the
organization (Doherty and Guyler 2008; Bollen and Euwema 2013).  is
appears to be achieved in part by reducing occupational stress, an advan-
tage of the process that is unexplored in the literature.
Acknowledging the importance of fi lling in this gap, this article exam-
ines mediation’s stress-alleviating potential and links the processes tak-
ing place in mediation to psychological models of stress. By establishing
this previously unexplained connection, the article examines the dynam-
ics of mediation from a new perspective. It argues that mediation can
intervene at the root of the stress process and prompt signifi cant positive
changes, potentially with long-term stress-reducing eff ect at the level of the
individual and the organization.
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq
Psychological knowledge of stress and its links to mediation can enhance
the ways in which mediators and organizations might best use this tool to
achieve wide-ranging benefi ts. Importantly, it is not argued that mediation
can or should substitute for counseling, a frequently applied organizational
stress management intervention (O’Driscoll and Cooper 2002; Kinman
and Jones, 2005) or other forms of individual interventions if they are nec-
essary or more appropriate. Rather, the claim is that mediation can serve
as an additional instrument to keep occupational stress at bay and have a
more signifi cant place in the system of stress management interventions.
Occupational Stress and Mediation
Occupational stress places signifi cant burdens on organizational func-
tioning and individual well-being. Numerous employees face working
environments that, for one reason or another, pose what may feel like
insurmountable challenges or diffi culties, placing them in untenable posi-
tions often leading to physical symptoms (Nixon et al. 2011).  e Ameri-
can Institute of Stress (n.d.) reports that the estimated cost of occupational
stress to the US economy is over $300 billion annually, the result of vari-
ous consequences of stress, for example, absenteeism, employee turnover,
lowered productivity, or salary. Similarly, in Great Britain, stress has con-
sistently been one of the most common types of work-related illnesses (UK
Health and Safety Executive 2013). Stress being the prevalent condition in
40 percent of 1,073,000 cases for all work-related illnesses, occupational
stress caused workers in Great Britain to lose 10.4 million working days in
2011 to 2012 (UK Health and Safety Executive 2013). As demonstrated
in numerous studies, stress at work is common in most countries (World
Health Organization n.d.; Zellars et al. 2008).
Agencies off ering alternative dispute resolution services also address
issues of occupational stress. In the United States, the Federal Mediation
and Conciliation Service (FMCS n.d.) off ers training in confl ict resolution,
which is promoted as leading to less stress, more harmony, and heightened
performance.  is service also off ers workshops that are explicitly targeted
at creating a healthy workplace (FMCS 2011). Likewise, in the United
Kingdom, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (n.d.) has
developed training programs for organizations, such as “Managing Stress
in the Workplace” and “Toxic Workplace Cultures: How to Tackle  em.”
In Australia, the Fair Work Commission (2014), the national workplace
relations tribunal, can issue orders to stop bullying behavior, a distinct risk

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