April 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

When an Issue Arises, Think Mediation

(Courtesy of Center for Mediation) For the last 20 years, brothers Ari and Josh have been operating a family catering business. Their late father brought Ari into the business first so he could get to know customers and start bringing in new business. At that time, Josh worked in finance and had a regular desk job. Nine years later, their father passed away. At the shiva, Josh’s wife told Ari that Josh had lost his job and she begged Ari to bring his brother into the business. Ari agreed. He taught Josh everything about the business and the brothers began working together. Josh contributed meaningfully, but over the years, Ari became dissatisfied with his performance. He felt that Josh was not bringing in new clients, and that he had started cutting corners. Eventually, Ari told Josh to leave the business. Josh was hurt and infuriated, and responded by withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars from the business account.

Ari is now outraged and wants the funds back. Josh believes he is entitled to them. What should they do? Go to a rav? Hire lawyers? Litigate?

While all of these are viable options to resolve conflict, there is at least one more that should be seriously considered: mediation. People often think about mediation in the context of a divorce or a way to settle ongoing litigation. But mediation has much more to offer and it is underutilized to resolve disputes such as the one that Ari and Josh face.

One of the many benefits of mediation is that it allows its participants to retain autonomy over how their dispute is resolved and over the actual outcome. The goal of a mediator, who is neutral and does not represent either party, is to help both parties determine areas of disagreement and generate solutions to their problems. This means that unlike in litigation or arbitration where an outside party determines the outcome, in mediation the parties themselves agree to the terms. In mediation the participants retain the power and control, instead of surrendering it to someone else. Of course, an experienced mediator knows when a rabbi, a lawyer, a financial planner or an accountant should be consulted.

Another benefit of mediation is that it allows the parties to think outside the proverbial box and come up with creative solutions that may not be possible elsewhere. In litigation, one party loses and the other one wins, and financial compensation is often the only option that is available. While money is indeed important, people are often in search of other goals. An apology, recognition of one’s efforts and contributions, validation, and acceptance are just some of many needs that litigation is not designed to address. Mediation, on the other hand, can and does address these needs. If a relationship between the parties is important, mediation can help restore or preserve it.

So what happened to Ari and Josh in mediation? First, their mediator provided them with an opportunity to express their anger and outrage in a confidential setting. The mediator listened to them and made sure that each one was heard and understood. Each brother explained how he had contributed to the business. The mediator also asked them to share their needs and goals. As they listened to each other, the brothers were surprised to see that they shared many of the same needs and goals. They also began to realize that each of them had in fact contributed substantially to the growth of the business. These realizations led them to agree to continue working together.

This was a turning point. After that, the mediator helped them identify areas of disagreement. The brothers lacked clarity as to their respective roles and disagreed as to what the business should specialize in. Ari wanted to branch into new areas of catering, whereas Josh wanted to stick to what has been working well. They eventually agreed that Ari would oversee marketing and sales, whereas Josh would handle client relations, bookkeeping and money management. They also agreed to focus on large events, such as weddings, and let go of smaller jobs.

Once these pieces were in place, they were able to tackle the issue of the funds that Josh withdrew. Knowing that he was back in the business and having clarity over his role, Josh agreed to return most of the funds. The remaining amount was invested in a joint retirement account, which the brothers both agreed was needed. Years of painful and expensive litigation were averted and the brothers’ personal and business relationship was repaired.

Mediation has become an effective way to address disputes. Next time, if you find yourself in conflict with your business partner, your current or former spouse, your parents or siblings, or even your neighbors, consider mediation as a viable option to resolve your dispute. We will explore in our next article how mediation can help resolve other personal issues and marital disputes.

Center for Mediation offers general mediation services and is conveniently located in Nutley, New Jersey offering both in-person and virtual sessions. Book a complimentary consultation online at www.centerformediation.net, call or text (973) 922-3254, or email [email protected].

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles