As one of the greatest thinkers and lawyers in America’s history, Abraham Lincoln understood the path to peace best when he wrote: “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”
However, this type of compromise is not always easily achieved, especially in matters of workplace or labor disputes. Working with others in high-stress environments on a daily basis is difficult enough–add to that different personalities, different management styles and different definitions of the words “professionalism” and “work ethic,” and you have a mix that is sure to provoke strife and conflict. As Lincoln stated, when compromise can’t be persuaded, perhaps it is time to bring in a lawyer who understands that he or she has the unique ability to be an expert peacemaker. A professional who knows the ins and outs of labor law, coupled with extensive experience helping people resolve labor and workplace disputes, might be your best option in avoiding costly and embarrassing public litigation. In fact, it might be your only option.
There are multiple situations that preempt labor and workplace disputes, and many such disputes start with something as simple as a few words exchanged between employer and employee, or an employee’s anxiety about colleagues who are seemingly undermining their efforts. Once these situations start to grow, they can swiftly get out of hand–leading to a workplace environment that is unproductive, argumentative and unappealing for everyone involved.
On the least extreme end of these circumstances, productivity is stifled and break-room chatter makes many people uncomfortable around their work peers. On the most extreme end, there are employee absences due to depression or panic attacks, retaliation that creates a general atmosphere of distrust, disciplinary measures and losing one’s job. The vital thing to understand is that workplace or labor disputes rarely end well if left to simmer in their own negativity; little problems quickly (and suddenly) escalate into big problems, causing a manager to complexly lose control of the situation.
This is why mediation for workplace and labor disputes should be the first option considered when things start to turn sour. It shouldn’t be a last-ditch effort to resolve an issue that has been ongoing for some time (although mediation can still help in these situations)–it should be an immediate response when communication starts to break down between employers and employees, or among employees. Mediation encourages open communication of the issue at hand so that it can be quickly resolved. Without this communication, Lincoln’s advice stands true: there will be business enough on the litigation end.