I gave them a blow-by-blow description of what I did. I don't know whether other mediators do that. I described what I did and what they said, their rationales. That way, I'm able to assure both sides that I am not just a messenger. They expect you to understand contracts. I have to show that I won't be kidded. I have to show that I've been around, that I have some knowledge of common practices. (Comment by a mediator)
It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that the task of the mediator is a difficult one. Labor mediators lay no claim to unquestioned status or formal authority. They are outsiders to the dispute, and have no power to compel its parties to resolve their differences. What direct and indirect influence mediators have emanates from their person, their reputation and skill, and the parties' ongoing assessment of them during the case. Although many of the mediators' actions on a case may be understood in terms of the direct contribution they make to resolving the substantive issues in dispute, it is generally acknowledged by practitioners and observers that the ability to make such contributions depends on how the mediator is viewed by the parties involved. Specifically, if mediators are to influence parties into rethinking their positions (even in a general sense) and into modifying these positions in order to achieve some form of compromise agreement, then practitioners must be seen as competent and credible. Indeed, what influence mediators have in a case will depend considerably upon whether the parties trust them and have confidence in their skills and abilities. How such perceptions come about is the topic of this chapter.