I may be showing my age for even remembering how commonplace that expression used to be as code for workplace mayhem in the U.S. What has changed? I have been reading “The Promise of Mediation” by Bush and Folger. Their transformative approach to conflict is all about using a deeper approach to mediation, meaning one that offers the promise of healing the underlying conflict rather than just getting the court cases settled.
The book opens with an example from the U.S. Postal Service’s REDRESS program which has adopted transformative mediation as its preferred mode of practice. This is a different slant on mediation, compared to the Fisher and Ury school of win-win interest based mediation. It is the interest based “Getting to Yes” style of mediation that is still the core model taught to lawyers taking 40-hour mediation trainings. No surprise then, that it seems to hold sway in the courts, where agreements just have to last until the case is settled.
The problem with this settlement focused approach is that in family law cases, there is a continuing relationship between parents, and if the underlying conflict remains, the parties bounce back and forth in and out of court until the children emancipate.
This was all prompted by reading Theron Patterson’s account of “Going Postal in Turkey,” in this weekend’s New York Times. The article narrates all the building anger and frustration implied by the phrase. Perhaps our family courts could learn a thing or two about the quality and style of court ordered mediation. Perhaps they should go postal in the good way embraced by the US Postal Service. If homicidal employees can be helped by using good mediation practices, why not families and their children?