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Mediation: developing a theoretical framework for understanding alternative dispute resolution

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  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


The perceived failure and repeal of the 2004 Disciplinary and Grievance Regulations has triggered interest in mediation techniques. This paper examines alternative approaches to conflict resolution by developing a theoretical framework that relates dispute resolution practice to philosophical assumptions about authority and knowledge. The dominant approach is rooted in top-down authority that legitimises disciplinary and grievance processes. Research findings from the US suggest that higher levels of satisfaction can be achieved through mediation processes. Mediation is driven by a commitment to developing both individual and collective conflict resolution skills in order to develop equitable relationships. This assumes acceptance of plurality indetermining both the process and outcome of dispute resolution posing a fundamental challenge at the philosophical level to dominant assumptions in the employer-employee relationship. By investigating the assumptions underpinning mediation, its link to direct democracy, and challenge to managerial authority, are revealed at the level of theory and practice.

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