Mediators’ Self-Perception of Their Work and Practice: Content and Lexical Analysis

By Pignault, Anne; Meyers, Raymond et al. | The Qualitative Report, June 2017 | Go to article overview

Mediators’ Self-Perception of Their Work and Practice: Content and Lexical Analysis


Pignault, Anne, Meyers, Raymond, Houssemand, Claude, The Qualitative Report


Mediations, often used in the plural (Battistoni, 2012), cover a variety of practices, objectives and perceptions (Picard, 2002). While some authors have tried to highlight certain mediator styles and techniques (Alexander, 2008; McLaughlin, Carnevale, & Lim, 1991), it is not always possible to determine the impact of their work on the outcome of mediation (Cheung & Yiu, 2007; Wall, Stark, & Standifer, 2001). Thus, in this study we focus on mediators' own views about their practices. To better grasp mediators' thinking about alternative conflict resolution processes, we seek to uncover the elements of the mediators' practices that they consider effective in achieving a positive resolution.

According to Wood and Bandura (1989), self-efficacy "refers to beliefs in one's capabilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources, and courses of action needed to situational demands" (p. 408). Since then, there have been many studies in various fields (e.g. Harrison, Rainer, Hochwarter, & Thompson, 1997; Multon, Brown, & Lent, 1991), including the field of work (e.g. Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998), that have brought to light the positive relationship between perceived self-efficacy and performance. The present study falls within this view, as we consider that efficacy beliefs affect not only the ways in which people act but also their actions themselves.

Our purpose is to identify which elements facilitate and which hinder the mediation process and, in particular, the aspects of a mediator's perceived work and self-efficacy that may affect conflict resolution. We examine formal mediation practices (Stebé, 2008), in which the mediators, the disputants, and their respective roles are known and recognized (Carriere, 1992). We present the results of a qualitative study analyzing the discourse (Potter & Wetherell, 1995) of 13 mediators on mediation practices, to move beyond guidelines about what should be done toward a deeper understanding of the perception of their work in practice. This method of discourse analysis has never, to our knowledge, been used to study mediators' discourse. Yet such a method is invaluable for bringing to light what mediators themselves believe to be effective (skills, methods, or styles) in responding to the individual and situational requirements of the mediation. These results are discussed in terms of their perceived relevance and their effectiveness in mediation practice and process.

Mediators' Impact on the Mediation Process

Studies on this subject have identified the objective characteristics of mediators that may influence the mediation process; but they have most often been studied independently of one another.

Backgrounds

Mediators seem to share values of respect and human dignity, a preference for compromise, and concerns about the recognition of their profession (Lesoeurs, Ben Mrad, & Guillaume-Hofnung, 2009; Tapia, 2010). However, beyond these considerations, little research has been done on the impact of their profiles on the outcome of mediation.

Gender may have an effect. Researchers have shown that women behave more cooperatively in negotiations than men (Walters, Stuhlmacher, & Meyer, 1998), that female mediators act in a more transformative way, and are more facilitating and less directive than their male counterparts (Nelson, Zarankin, & Ben-Ari, 2010). Moreover, women, more than men, consider themselves able to understand non-verbal communication (Desivilya, Ady-Nagar, & Ben-Bashat, 2004). Differences in education and/or career paths may also have an effect. The professional vocabulary used (in terms of "lodge a complaint" for a lawyer or "diagnosis" for a psychologist) is also significant (Desivilya et al., 2004). These differences in terms of socio-demographic profiles may be related to the outcome of mediation and whether it is successful.

The personality of the mediators and the disputants may also be an important element affecting the intervention. …

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