Workplace Mediation: View Your Case from the Other Seats at the Table

_0906095026_001 redactedI’m probably one of the few mediators in the country who has literally sat at every seat at the proverbial workplace mediation table.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been

  • outside counsel for employers;
  • in-house counsel at the General Electric Company (including General Counsel of the GE Transportation business);
  • the client representative for GE;
  • plaintiff’s counsel representing executives; and
  • a named plaintiff in a gender discrimination class action.

Now that I’m working as a mediator, I’ve found that those experiences help me to more quickly be able to establish the type of rapport and trust that are essential to successfully resolving workplace disputes.

In reflecting on a recent mediation, I was reminded of what Atticus explains to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”   I wished there was a way to have the parties walk around in the skins of the other mediation participants.

If they could take a walk in the skin of in-house counsel, the other parties would learn, for example, that there is often no established process for getting settlement authority for a mediation and more often than not that there are competing agendas and analysis within the company. They’d learn how important it is to help in-house counsel be able to “sell the deal” to those various contingencies.  Defense counsel could benefit from learning the top three things they do in a mediation that, from the perspective of plaintiff’s counsel, kill any chance of successfully mediating the case.  Plaintiff’s counsel would get the benefit of understanding how plaintiff’s demeanor and participation or lack thereof in the mediation factors into defense counsel’s settlement valuation of the case.

And then . . . a light bulb went off.  I could use this blog to do a series of Q&A’s with various plaintiff’s counsel, in-house counsel and outside counsel and ask just some of those questions.  We could all in a “safe environment” — outside the context of an actual lawsuit — learn a bit more about the other’s perspective.  We could “walk around” in another’s skin for a bit if you will.

Over the next few weeks I will be interviewing various legal counsel to get their perspectives about mediating workplace disputes.  In sharing these perspectives my goal is to generate a rich discussion that helps us all improve our mediation skills.

I invite you to share your comments in the comment section and to email me if you’d like to be interviewed on this topic.  My email:

Update:  To read my interview of plaintiff’s attorney Donna Ballman click here.   To read the insights of Fox Rothschild partner Richard Cohen click here.  To read the Q&A with plaintiff’s attorney Ed Buckley click here and for the perspectives of Ogletree partner Meg Campbell click here.


Internal InvestigationsWorkplace Investigations Group is headquartered in Atlanta, GA but has a national directory of professional workplace investigators who are all attorneys and have a minimum of ten years of employment litigation experience.  As such, wherever the workplace issue arises, corporate counsel and employers can easily identify an investigator who can respond to the regional need quickly, impartially and competently.   For more information: