Cage Match Mediation

Humans working in close quarters for too long get restless, engage in tussles and have little functional release for angst beyond continuing to take it out on each other. Entire teams can get pulled into the dispute and make every person’s life a waking hell. Oftentimes, outright termination or cancellation is not or cannot be the obvious answer. A manager can collect as much data as possible and have separate conversations with each contender. With any luck, at least one person will take the high road and tension will diffuse.

But what if neither side backs down? What if tensions reverse or worsen? In these situations, sometimes the only thing a manager has left to do is lock the two responsible parties in a room together and let them fight it out while you play referee. Force them both to get everything out on the table. Navigate them to firm common ground upon which both parties can agree. Facilitate a mutual understanding of the fundamental situation. And, finally, get both players to commit to specific action items. Two weeks later, follow up to see if both sides pulled their end of bargain. If only one side failed, you have all the cause you need to take drastic actions you might not have felt comfortable taking before. If both sides fail, you get rid of them both or throw them both back into a cage together again and again and again until they get so tired of the mediation process that they quit or shape up.

While not a pretty method, cage match mediation empowers team members to exact their own agency and purpose in ways the decisions of autocratic managers could never achieve. It qualifies both sides of the issue, delivers growth to all characters involved, and usually results in clear courses of critical action…or a room full of better human beings.