Finding Resolution: Mock Mediation as a Tool for Construction Managers

How we use Mock Mediation as a part of our Faulconer Academy training program

No project developer, construction manager, general contractor, or subcontractor begins a project thinking, “I hope we end up in a claim situation on this job.” In fact, the beginning of a project often resembles the honeymoon stage of a relationship, with nothing but good feelings and a positive outlook on the future.

How quickly do those good feelings go out the door as soon as expectations aren’t met or when disputes arise? Arguments, finger-pointing, and harshly worded emails abound. In some instances, it’s not possible to find common ground or a resolution. In those cases, the parties enter mediation to allow an impartial third party to hear each side’s position and help find a solution.

As a relationship-driven contractor, we try our hardest to identify potential sources of conflict in the preconstruction phase by looking critically at the project with members of our preconstruction and operations teams and our clients. These sessions increase the likelihood of catching and fixing issues before starting work on the project.

We also recognize that we don’t operate in a perfect world, and conflict on a construction site is all but inevitable. It is also one of the most significant sources of stress for our team members and can negatively impact their mental health. As a part of our Faulconer Academy program, we conduct a day-long mock mediation that covers all aspects of structured mediation. Mock mediation has many benefits for us at the organizational and individual levels.

Prevent Disagreements from Escalating Further

Mock mediation equips our team members with strategies to prevent minor dust-ups from becoming more significant disagreements. For example, if there is a problem on-site, our team learns how to identify and work through the issue rather than resorting to finger-pointing or counter-productive arguments.

Inject Empathy into the Situation

When conflict arises, it’s all too common for contractors to develop tunnel vision. “How can I get my way in this disagreement?” Mock mediation allows our team members to see a problem from multiple, often differing, viewpoints. This aspect of mock mediation translates directly to the job site in an approach to conflict that aims for common ground instead of a “victory.”

Enhance Project Communication

Successful mock mediation requires carefully planned and timely communication. Unsurprisingly, timely, comprehensive communication is critical to resolving and proactively avoiding conflict on a construction site. This emphasis on communication helps to drive home that project updates such as short-term lookahead schedules are essential to identify and resolve conflict before it occurs.

Our front-line managers, both in the office and in the field, are critical to the success of our business. They manage schedules, budgets, work scope, personnel, and so much more. Adding conflict or mediation to a full workload can harm their managerial effectiveness and mental and emotional health. Mock mediation is critical to empowering our team members with the tools to resolve conflict before it escalates. Mock mediation allows us to train early intervention strategies, demonstrate the power of empathy, and drive home communication best practices. These three benefits alone make mock mediation an excellent tool for our team members and, in turn, our company as a whole.