Workplace Mediation: More than Band-Aids on Wounds

Most notable from their discussion will be an emphasis on a particularly nagging issue: the reality that workplace mediators, especially the private practitioners who are called in “as-needed,” are often limited to the seemingly futile role of putting Band-Aids on gaping wounds.

Conflicts don’t appear in isolation. “There are generally more systemic issues,” says Laraine Ashpole, Mediate BC Roster mediator and chair of the upcoming panel. According to her, the conflicts mediators are brought in to resolve are often just surface issues; and underlying systemic problems tend to put a wrench in the mediation process. As an example, she mentions: “We also find sometimes these aren’t necessarily the right people in the room. The two people in the conflict are there, but the manager isn’t there.”

This frustratingly limited capacity to mediate a real resolution or affect long-term organizational change has led the panelists—Gordon White, Alison Paine, Lori Charvat, and Patricia Vickers—to formulate a toolbox. As much as they appreciate the income generated by putting Band-Aids on wounds, they’d rather see mediators capitalize on their conflict resolution skills to ensure clients see positive, long-lasting change.

What are some of those tools?

Each panelist will provide a unique perspective. Both Alison and Lori have an interest in talking about what they call Complex Adaptive Systems in Leadership. Gordon wants to introduce the concept of Conflict Competent Cultures; and Patricia wants to follow up by offering insights into deeply rooted trauma that affect organizational culture. Practically speaking, panelists will likely give the following advice.

Workplace mediators are encouraged to:

  • Provide recommendations to leadership as part of, or in addition to, the mediation process.
  • Highlight conflict training as a part of their service.
  • Coach HR departments and leadership in developing conflict competent cultures.

The reality is many organizations want a Band-Aid. Even if leadership manages to recognize their own shortfalls, they might hesitate to initiate a seemingly slow and costly process of systemic change; but it never hurts to ask. That’s why one of the recommendations from the panel is simply to ask clients: are these themes you would like to explore?

For more information about the panel, or to sign up for the ADRBC Symposium, visit the symposium web page. Mediate BC roster mediators receive a discount, and early bird rate ends May 5.


About the Panelists

Laraine Ashpole, Panel Chair

Employer’s Advisor for the Ministry of Labour, as well as a mediator, consultant, and trainer for businesses.

Gordon White

Mediator for over 20 years. His experience encompasses the completion of over 500 cases including a wide range of workplace issues, multi-party meetings, lawsuits, family issues, and community disputes. 

Alison Paine

Mediator, Conflict Coach and Conflict Management Consultant in private practice. As the former Assistant Deputy Minister of Talent Management for the Government of British Columbia she established an all-new way of dealing with conflict for the public service workplace.

Lori Charvat

Workplace mediator, conflict coach, and Board Chair of Mediate BC. Lori helps people and organizations work through conflict and change to co-create socially just, collaborative and productive work teams.

Dr. Patricia Vickers

Teacher, artist, psychotherapist and spiritual director. Her approach to all services comes from the Northwest Coast Feast Hall, Buddhist teachings, and the teachings of Christ and is founded on a relationship with self, the Supernatural and others.


9 Intriguing Topics at the Upcoming “Listening to Conflict” Convention

“The most basic of human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” –Ralph Nichols, ILA Founder

This little bit of wisdom on the front page of the International Listening Association (ILA) website applies to all sorts of situations and professions—conflict resolution being one of the most obvious. Hence why it’s no surprise the Listening Associations convention theme this year is titled “Listening in Conflict.” If we cannot effectively understand and be understood, or help others do the same, then we cannot effectively mediate. To explore this theme from various angles, academics and thought leaders from all corners of the globe will be converging at Vancouver’s downtown SFU campus from March 21 to 23. A brief glance at this year’s program shows how varied the topics and sources of expertise are. Since the scope of this conference is so broad, and not all are related to mediation, we’ve decided to highlight a few key topics we think you might find interesting. Click here to receive the Mediate BC roster promo code (roster mediators only).

Thursday, March 21

Listening Swap Shop

This highly interactive workshop offers up to seven new methods for training and teaching others to improve listening skills. In it participants are shuffled from expert to expert at ten minute intervals. For those ADR professionals interested in updating their toolkit, this might provide up to seven new tools for coaching clients through listening in mediation.

Ears See the Tears: Listening Skills as the Foundation for Community Work Combining Artistic Expression with Trauma-Informed Care

This interactive workshop will demonstrate how listening can help us combine research about Adverse Childhood Experiences with theater to more effectively address the needs of individuals and communities in conflict. The premise being that “at its most powerful, listening is a full body experience.”

Friday, March 22

Managing Conflict Situations with Listening: Who Does it Best? (L)

Dr. Sanna Ala-Kortesmaa, Ph.D. offers academic insights on the personality traits, listening values, and abilities needed for effective listening.

Listening to Be an Ally in Disrupting Systems of Oppression (L)

During this interactive presentation, Dr. Cynthia Hazel, Ph.D., will review the literature on allyship and utilizing privilege to disrupt systemic inequities. As well as provide examples of how listening to her peers and students has informed her of when she was colluding with White superiority and increased her capacity to recognize and challenge oppression.

(Re-) setting Rapport: Making Space for Listening in Stress and Shame Situations (T)

This presentation by Dr. Deborah Leiter will discuss the ways to re-set rapport in situations where people feel threatened—in other ways, a situation where (di)stress or shame predominates. In such situations, people have a hard time listening well. When shame is in the mix, feelings of inadequacy make this even harder.

Stimulating Deliberative Listening When Public Issues are Divisive (W)

This workshop is intended to address divisive listening and speech that occurs in public settings regarding contentious issues. Dr. Ronald Hustedde and Dr. Rosalind Harris will explore four tools for moving away from evaluative listening, towards empathic, appreciative and comprehensive listening.

Saturday, March 23

Active Listening, Conflict Resolution and Communication: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Examining Conflicting Listening Schemas

If you want to resolve conflicts, both scientific studies; and anecdotal experience show that there is a particular skill that can make or break your efforts: active listening. This panel takes a multidisciplinary approach to exploring conflicting listening schemas created by our perceptions of difference, and it offers evidence-based approaches to bridging those barriers in a global society.

More Listening = Less Conflict: How The Listening Gap© and The Listening Challenge© Can Reduce the Intensity and Incidence of Conflict

PhD candidate Catherine Lampton introduces two tools to help lessen and turn around destructive conflict. First, The Listening Gap© is used to help you monitor and control your own thoughts and responses. Second, The Listening Challenge© is used to empower your communication and to increase your chances of being heard.

Civil Communication and Common Sense Etiquette in the Workplace

Dr. Erica J. Lamm, will explore the definitions of civility, etiquette, communication and listening, and then offer concrete steps to create a more civil workplace. Special emphasis on effective listening in an uncivil environment will be given.


Up Your Game – Advanced Mediation Workshop



I am very fortunate to work at a firm that truly appreciates the value of mediation work and is willing to support its mediators in taking advantage of excellent ADR training opportunities. One such opportunity occurred a few years back when I was able to attend the Advanced Mediation Training Course offered under the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. I had previously attended the Advanced Mediation course offered in British Columbia and while it was excellent, I hoped that a trip to Harvard would provide me with a wider ADR perspective and equip me with some new “tools” to use in my mediation practice here in BC. I can say without hesitation that the training I received not only exceeded my expectations, but also saw me work with a network of highly skilled ADR professionals whom I now count as friends.

Two of the individuals who inspired me the most during my all too short trip to Harvard were Professors Audrey Lee and David Hoffman. I recall speaking to both of them at the end of the course to suggest that they visit BC and conduct workshops for ADR professionals. Both were very open to the idea and last April, Professor Lee came to Vancouver to conduct a well-received half-day seminar on implicit bias. Given that success, we discussed a return visit for a more in-depth seminar and, after a great deal of work on their parts, both Professor Lee and Professor Hoffman will be in Vancouver on May 8 and 9, 2019 to conduct a workshop on advanced mediation topics.

Professor Lee is a senior mediator at the Boston Law Collaborative LLC (“BLC”) and Executive Director at the BLC Institute, a non-profit committed to providing education and training in all areas of ADR. Professor Hoffman is a founding member of the BLC and teaches three courses at Harvard Law School.  Both serve as instructors in the school’s Advanced Mediation Program.

Course Content

The Advanced Mediation Workshop in May will see Professors Lee and Hoffman using a combined lecture, simulation, and question and answer format. This will make for a very engaging experience and one that is highly interactive between the instructors and course attendees. Based on my past experience, I can say that the two-day course offered this May will be both challenging and very rewarding.


The course provides a unique opportunity for mediators to receive training in advanced mediation subjects. During the morning of the workshop’s first day, participants will learn about mediation strategy, process design and the all-important subject of building rapport and trust with counsel and the parties. This will lead to the additional topic of working with counsel and dealing with the dynamics in play between counsel and their clients. Process design is not normally a topic on which mediators focus, as we all tend to fall back on our own tried and true methods and can be guilty of not wanting to stray from our comfort zone. Learning about process design can be, in fact, a real eye-opener in terms of how mediators can structure a given mediation or customize their approach to the ADR process. Improved process can result in increased efficiencies and greater success in achieving resolution.  At the same time, paying attention to counsel/client dynamics and the all-important need to build trust “in the room” can reap huge dividends in ensuring a fruitful mediation and, dare I say it, an increase in the number of repeat engagements that a mediator may see from counsel.

During the afternoon of the first day, the workshop’s focus will shift to a mediator’s ability to identify core concerns and use them to achieve resolution. The day will then conclude with what promises to be a very lively discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of moving to “caucus,” caucusing for counsel alone, and the use of joint sessions involving all of the participants at the mediation. Incidentally, and aside from the fact that both Professors Lee and Hoffman love to dive in on questions at a moment’s notice, the first day of the workshop will see participants engaged in two separate simulations. Simulations of this sort were <em>de rigueur</em> at the Harvard course and the Professors are highly skilled at making them both realistic and enjoyable.

Day two of the course will dig into the concepts of fairness, distributive bargaining and secondary conflicts. The subjects of mediator evaluation and negotiation coaching will also be explored. If you are hoping to add to your mediator’s “tool kit,” the morning session will also provide some unique opportunities to learn impasse-breaking techniques. This particular subject was featured at the sessions I attended in Harvard and I cannot begin to guess the number of times that I have called upon this skill set to assist parties when the will to mediate seemed all but lost.

The workshop will also cover psychological dimensions of mediation and topics, which to my mind are of key interest in BC, such as culture, diversity and implicit bias in mediation. Last year’s half-day presentation by Professor Lee dealt with the matter of implicit bias and was both highly motivating and a real eye-opener. Think you are a “neutral”?  Do you take pride in the fact that you are completely open and unbiased in your approach to ADR? Check those thoughts at the door – there’s lots to learn.

The second day of the workshop will conclude with a discussion on mediation ethics, a recent hot topic in the ADR field. As will be the case on day one, day two should see vigorous question and answer opportunities and one further simulation. A fantastic opportunity.

As mentioned above, I was very fortunate to be able to obtain advanced training at Harvard; however, I would be the first to admit that tuition, travel, and accommodation expenses may be daunting for some.  The May 8-9 workshop provides two full days of accredited training by two very gifted Professors who are making the trip to Vancouver and yet the cost to CBA members is only $800.00 plus GST ($900.00 for Mediate BC Rostered Mediators and Associated Mediators, and $1,100.00 for non-CBA members, plus GST). By any measure, this is a spectacular bargain and I can unreservedly recommend that you attend.

Register for the Advanced Mediation Workshop.  


About the Author

William (Bill) Holder is a partner at the law firm of Clark Wilson LLP. He works as both a business litigator and mediator serving as the Co-Chair of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Vancouver Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Subsection and as the National Chair of the CBA’s ADR Communications and Awards Committee. Bill is a member of Mediate BC’s Civil Roster.

#MeToo Mediation at the ADRBC Symposium

The MeToo movement was founded to help survivors of sexual violence find pathways to healing.  By bringing vital conversations about sexual violence to the general public, it’s beginning to de-stigmatize survivors by highlighting the breadth and impact of sexual violence.

#MeToo: Is Mediation an Option for Sexual Harassment Complaints

Panel Chair: Brian Hutchinson
Panelists: Melany Franklin, Heather Hettiarachchi, Roy Johnson, Cathy Knapp

This movement has brought forward our need to think critically about the appropriateness of mediation in addressing sexual violence and harassment allegations. The panel discussion, lead by experienced workplace mediators, will draw on their experience in handling such cases to touch on a number of important topics to be considered:

  • privacy and confidentiality
  • criminal behaviour
  • the relationships between the individuals and power imbalances
  • restorative principles
  • employer interests
  • and more!

There will be a Q&A portion to the discussion as well, opening the floor for further understanding and growth for all that attend in hopes to progressively move into the future and the potential for ADR to be at the forefront when handling such complex and personal “disputes”.

Meet the panel of experts:

Melany Franklin is currently adjunct faculty to Osgoode’s Certificate in Human Rights Theory and Practice, and taught Labour and Employment Law at the University of Toronto for many years. Prior to becoming a mediator she was a partner at a national law firm where she practiced labour, employment and human rights law.

Heather Hettiarachchi is a lawyer, workplace investigator and mediator with extensive hands-on human resources management and labour relations experience. Heather is also an entrepreneur and small business owner and founder of Integritas Workplace Law. Heather serves on the CBABC Equality and Diversity Committee and the CBABC Law Week Committee and is Co-Chair of the CPHR BC & Yukon Richmond/Delta Roundtable.

Roy Johnson is co-author of the top-selling “Turning Conflict into Profit” and a founder and Principal of The Neutral Zone Coaching and Consulting Services Inc. Roy is a mediator, trainer and psychotherapist who works with communities, families and public- and private-sector organizations. Roy is a Civil Roster mediator, certified debriefer, change management specialist and human resources professional.

Cathy Knapp‘s practice is dedicated to workplace mediation, investigation, arbitration, and training. She also specializes in conducting Workplace Investigations providing external expertise to organizations in providing objective fact-findings needed to determine appropriate outcomes. Cathy has a background stemming from almost 30 years in the aviation industry with over 15 of these years spent in Human Resources where she was the sole Canadian HR professional working for the world’s largest airline.

Read the panelists’ full bios.


June 11-12 at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue

The Symposium provide an opportunity for ADR professionals to network, interact and discuss current issues and developments. Roster mediators qualify for a discount on registration rates. Few seats remain so reserve your spot by registering now.

Be sure not to miss the #MeToo panel discussion June 11th at 11:30am!

Brian HutchinsonBrian Hutchinson is an Associate Civil Roster mediator and a member of the 2018 ADRBC Symposium Organizing Team. Additionally, Brian provides Conflict Coaching and Workplace Fairness Analysis.



Image by Deva Pardue For All Womankind

Sharing the Land: Connecting with the DR Community at CLE’s DR Conference 2015

I recently attended the 2015 Dispute Resolution Conference Share the Land, offered through the CLEBC, and found this to be a most creative avenue for networking and exploring developments both locally and internationally in the realm of ADR.

Setting the Stage

I’ll begin by sharing my pleasure in arriving at the conference site, which was the Improv Theater located on Granville Island. Just as I have always felt and appreciated the creative differences between litigation and mediation, I immediately felt the creative difference this conference was going to provide based on its venue; and, I wasn’t disappointed.

When do you get to attend a conference with a lunch break consisting of actors prepared to “playback” through live performance key moments you recall from your mediations? High conflict situations resulting in fisticuffs between counsel? Now imagine that being acted out right before your eyes and watching the actors carry you through the decompression of the conflict through the mediator’s eyes. Learning through playback: Just imagine that!

Hitting the Mark

“New World” – What’s New in Dispute Resoution Around the World

Chair: C.D. Saint

  • Daniela Cohen, Host Program Scalabrini Centre, South Africa
  • Sarah Daitch, AccessFacility, Netherlands
  • Meredith Gray, Criminal Court Mediation New York Peace Institute, USA
  • Rishita Nandagiri, Ha Ha Ha Sangha, India

What I imagine, is a world where people solve problems more, and litigate less, and I have always seen ADR as the mechanism through which that reality may occur. I was most pleased to have attended a morning international panel session entitled, “What’s New Around the World,” wherein, I heard of at least 3 other jurisdictions that are using various ADR processes to resolve conflict, including in situations involving refugees, which is now of imminent importance to our country.

“Noob Cannon” – Diversity on Mediator Rosters

Chair: Julie Daum, Mediator, Fraser Lake

  • Jenifer Crawford, Crawford Law Office, Kamloops
  • Ann Lee, Mediator Roster Manager, Mediate BC
  • Kamaljit Lehal, Lehal & Company, Delta
  • Yuki Matsuno, Mediator, Vancouver
  • Adrienne S. Smith, Pivot Legal Society, Vancouver
  • Kathy Taberner, Institute of Curiosity, Vernon
  • Paul Taberner, Mediator, Vernon

I also attended a session on diversity, which opened the discussion of what is diversity and does there need to be more of it on the roster? It was wonderful to have so many minds share their perspective on this issue, and I can say I was surprised to learn that some see diversity as the creation of a bias or power-imbalance. The thought shared was that mediators, regardless of their background, sex, or culture, should all be bringing neutrality, as much as possible, to the table, so identifying a unique characteristic in a mediator that may align better for one party over another is not bringing neutrality. Thus, “Is diversity neutral?” and “What is neutrality?” became themes our discussion group explored. Many others felt that diversity is lacking on the current roster, and that the characteristics of a mediator do help shape their practice and this does not negate the neutrality of their practice, rather it enhances it.

These perspectives resonated with me both as a mediator and as a lawyer. From my perspective as a mediator, I feel having diversity on the roster is important as it provides different skill sets, different perspectives, and different cultural backgrounds, which provides a diverse learning environment in which we all network, collaborate and benefit from. From my perspective as a lawyer, it provides my clients with choice, which is important as we are planning “their” discussion. When choosing a mediator, I ask my clients to consider if they have any preferences for the person they are choosing to facilitate their discussion. Often, they have none, but more often than not, they have particular preferences, which assists with their level of comfort and trust in the mediator and the process. I will often receive comments such as, “I would like an experienced mediator with more than a few years of practice,” or “I would feel more comfortable with a male mediator,” or “I would prefer a mediator who is Aboriginal and would not only respect, but also understand, my request to open with a prayer.”

I tend to align with the thoughts that these preferences do not impact the neutrality of the mediator, as the role of the mediator remains the same: to perform their work towards all of the parties in a neutral and unbiased manner that does not favour any one party over another.

“Get What You Want, Get What You Need” – The Pros and Cons of Med/Arb

Carol Hickman, QC, Quay Law Centre, New Westminster

Another interesting session involved learning about the latest in med-arb, which appears to be fairly infant in its use in British Columbia, but definitely emerging as a strong contender in ADR for those who want finality in process. The presentation included a general description of med-arb and how it differs from either mediation or arbitration independently, how the practice is used in different provinces in Canada, and also the benefits, pitfalls and challenges of such a process.

A question was posed as to how one would practice differently as a mediator in a med-arb process as opposed to their practice in a straight mediation process, and it was identified that you must be much more critical of your steps in the mediation portion, ie. Being mindful of the length of time you spend in caucus with each party to ensure balance so that if you are eventually the arbitrator, you are seen as completely neutral. Also, how do you ensure you are basing a final decision on only information provided at the arbitration and not mixing it with information you heard during mediation and possibly during private caucuses in mediation? I was feeling I would be uncomfortable with the changing of the hats described in this process, but we then heard about one way these concerns were being addressed, which is through a team approach, and that idea appealed greatly to me: I will conduct the mediation and if arbitration is required, you will go to my colleague for the arbitration portion.

Curtain Call

The weather was not on our side the day of the conference, it was mostly overcast, and did start to rain during the latter part of the day; however, this encouraged coffee drinking and networking and provided for opportunities for me to connect with colleagues working in various regions of BC, as well as fellow mediators from Victoria for whom I get little chance to speak with despite our close proximity. This conference highlighted for me the importance of remaining connected with the ADR community at large and reminded me that although it may feel as though we work in isolation, we do ‘share the land,’ and must remember to share our thoughts, questions, knowledge and wisdom, with each other, across that land.

Colleen Spier

Colleen Spier is a child protection mediator and family lawyer based in Victoria. A Métis woman, she is the Vancouver Island Representative of the Canadian Bar Association’s Aboriginal Lawyer’s Forum and the President of the Board of the Directors for Island Metis Family and Community Services, and an active board member of Metis Community Services in Surrey.