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NOAA Alternative Dispute Resolution Program

Mediation Services: Preparing for Mediation

The person across the table is your partner in reaching a solution–how do you want to treat your partner?

Understanding what mediation is supposed to accomplish.

The goal of mediation is for parties to reach an agreement about the future that meets their needs and values. When parties have not terminated their relationships and both must return to the same workplace, mediation allows parties a safe, face-saving, planned re-entry into the workplace. Mediation’s fundamental principle is self-determination, i.e., exploring your interests, thinking about possible interests of the other participants. Also by discussing your issues and interests with the ADR Program staff.

If you have any questions about how to identify your interests, or how to go about guessing what the interests of the other side are, you may want to discuss this with the ADR program staff. We will make sure to share only the information you specifically authorize either before or during the mediation.

Making sure that the right people are participating.

Ask yourself, “Of all the possible outcomes to this mediation, do I have both the necessary authority and the necessary knowledge to make an informed settlement? If I don’t have the necessary knowledge and/or authority, who should be available to answer questions or authorize settlement actions.” The ADR Program staff will be able to help you think through this decision.


Because this is an informal proceeding, you will be speaking for yourself, and making decisions about how issues will be resolved to your satisfaction and the satisfaction of the other side. A representative is not necessary, however, you may bring someone to the mediation if you so choose. If you are a member of a bargaining unit, your union representative may wish to be present.

Understanding each person’s role.

Each person at the table has a role to play in the mediation. The mediators act as impartial facilitators of the process. They do not serve as judges of the facts in your case. They do not serve as arbitrators, judges or advocates for anyone in the dispute. They are there to guide you and the other participants through a structured process, to help you develop an understanding of the underlying interests of all the participants, and to help everyone develop creative options for resolution of the issues.

As a participant in the mediation process, your role is to mediate in good faith, using the principles of common courtesy. Mediating in good faith means you are willing to listen to the other party’s perception of the dispute, you will maintain an open mind and you will consider any options for resolution, you are willing to negotiate without holding to a fixed position, and you are willing to share all relevant information. Common courtesy includes listening to each other, no interrupting and avoiding inflammatory language such as name-calling.

Preparing your opening statement as the initiator of the mediation process.

Because this is an informal process, you do not need to prepare a written statement, nor do you need to make extensive notes. Just think through the events, issues and your feelings that led you to come to mediation, and be prepared to present them as clearly as you can. It’s often helpful for the mediators and participants to hear about things in chronological order.

Preparing your opening statement when you are the respondent.

The initiator of the mediation will often have a very different perception of events from yours. Your opening statement should be concerned with your perceptions and your feelings. Remember, this process is not designed to judge the facts of a case, but rather to resolve the issues between you in a mutually satisfactory way in order to build a good working relationship for the future.

Logistics - how the room is set up, how long mediation usually takes, breaks, time constraints.

Mediations usually take 4 to 8 hours. They usually begin at 9:00 a.m. For particularly complex mediations, extra sessions can be scheduled during the mediation session, when all the participants are present. Whether or not you anticipate extra sessions, it would be helpful to bring your calendar, so you can mutually set any needed implementation dates for provisions in the final settlement agreement.

The Agreement to Mediate.

Before mediation begins, you will be briefed again on the process of mediation and will have a chance to ask any questions you may have. You will be asked to sign the Agreement to Mediate form, included here for your information:


In consideration of receiving services from the NOAA Dispute Resolution Program, I agree to enter into this mediation in good faith. I will sincerely attempt to resolve this dispute, agree to cooperate with the mediator(s) assigned to this case, and give serious consideration to all suggestions made in regard to developing a realistic solution to the problem.

I understand that mediators assigned to this case will not be serving as advocates, attorneys, or judges. Their sole function is to act as neutral facilitators. Any agreements or decisions resulting from this mediation session are entered into voluntarily and by mutual acceptance of the parties.

I agree that mediation sessions are confidential settlement negotiations and that all offers, promises, conduct and statements, whether written or oral, made in the course of proceedings are inadmissible in any litigation or arbitration of this dispute, to the extent allowed by law. However, matters that are admissible in a court of law or other administrative process continue to be admissible even though brought up in a mediation session.

I also agree to not subpoena or require any mediator to testify or produce records, notes or work product in any future proceedings and that no recordings or stenographic records will be made of the mediation session.