The global recession has taken its hold here in the Cayman Islands and there has never been more pressure on firms to cut costs while increasing productivity thus potentially heaping serious pressure on staff. Couple that with economic difficulties at home adding extra pressure, and the likelihood of stress levels rising to seriously high levels is on the increase. When individuals get stressed communication is key if issues at work or at home are not to get blown out of all proportion, thus a new mediation solution on-island is a timely service for today’s over-worked and over-stressed employee. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports.
Four years ago counsellor and therapist Dee Duggan established Workplace Solutions, a counselling service to employees across the island and their families, geared towards helping businesses run more smoothly by focusing on performance-based issues.
Dee, who has a degree in psychology and a Masters in clinical counselling who previously worked at the Department of Substance Abuse Services (now known as Cayman Counseling), explains: “Companies come to me when they are having performance issues with an employee and I then counsel the individual to get to the root of the issue, which often is caused by family issues. I therefore extend the counselling directly to the family as well, in an attempt to approach the problem in an all-encompassing, holistic way.”
Since the company was formed Dee says she has become a familiar face within the community and now deals with clients on an individual basis as well as via company referrals, especially since she undertook a series of seminars and workshops covering topics such as health, parenting, stress management and budgeting, all of which has helped raise awareness of the benefits of counselling.
“The seminars were a great way to de-stigmatise the idea of counselling and introduce individuals to the concept that we are here to help,” Dee says.
New mediation service adds value
A natural progression of the business was to hire mediator and facilitator Julie McLaughlin to create added value to the organisation via her mediation services.
Julie explains the difference: “Counseling tends to be an ongoing service while mediation tends to focus on one issue. Mediation is a form of alternate dispute resolution whereby an impartial mediator assists two or more parties to resolve a dispute through facilitated communication. Once two parties have experienced mediation their relationship, which could well have broken down, begins to heal.”
Mediation can be used in a variety of ways to get parties communicating in order to solve conflicts and other problems in the workplace and at home.
Julie lists the areas in which she can assist: “Internal conflicts at work can cause a drop in productivity, cause an increase in sick leave and absenteeism and sometimes can get blown out of all proportion and can even lead to sabotage, so I can step in and help both parties understand each other’s point-of-view and hopefully resolve their issues before things get to a litigious stage.”
She continues: “I can also assist companies with change management when there is a significant amendment in the operation of a firm. I have also had a great deal of experience assisting couples with divorce issues, such as resolving child custody issues. These problems can all usually be resolved at a fraction of the cost of litigation. Issues can often be resolved in a matter of hours, so the speed at which mediation works is also a key factor.”
Resolving issues relating to the care of the elderly is also an important aspect of the mediation service that Workplace Solutions provides, as well as help to resolve inheritance issues.
Julie says the role of a mediator is not that of an attorney and should not replace legal counsel; rather mediation should be viewed as a complement to a company’s existing human resources department. “As a mediator I am a neutral third party – impartial and confidential and therefore creating added value. The benefits of confidentiality mean that reputations (whether corporate or personal) remain intact, a big plus for such a small community as Cayman, while trials at Court of become public knowledge.”
Julie explains that her methods include seeing where the common interests lie with both parties and trying to find a commonality to produce a win win situation for both sides. “We breakdown the problem and then use problem-solving models to create options. I do not provide the solutions myself; that is up to the parties to find their own solutions, however I have found that I usually achieve a 90 per cent success rate.”
Julie has an impressive background, having trained as a mediator and achieved a Masters in conflict management which she put to good use in the UK where she worked particularly in family and community mediation, and then in the US where she worked with the Washington Centre for Dispute Settlements in partnership with the US attorney’s office.