Managing emotions in employment disputes: a new pre-causus model of the manager-as-a-mediator

  • PhD
    Swaab, Dr Roderick
    INSEAD, France


Organizational scholars promoting the manager–as–a mediator model of intervention into employment disputes have recommended the practice of professional mediators to avoid pre-caucuses – meetings held separately with each disputant prior to any joint meeting – because doing so might undermine their neutrality and ability to resolve disputes. We propose a new model of third party intervention into employment disputes that recognizes and mitigates disputants’ negative emotions and so resolves employment disputes more successfully. Our new model encourages third parties to convene separate pre-caucuses for the purpose of acknowledging disputants’ feelings by building a positive, empathic, relationship with each of them. Using multi-method data from managers acting as third party dispute resolvers and professional mediators, we show that compared to no pre-caucus, a pre-caucus organized to focus on the substantive issues in the dispute, or caucuses organized during the joint meeting, third parties who organized separate relationship-building pre-caucuses were perceived as more empathic, facilitated greater cooperation, resolved conflict more thoroughly, and were more likely to settle disputes. We grounded the design of our pre-caucus model and our hypotheses in the literatures on organizational justice, communications, leaders as managers of group emotions, and managers as third party dispute resolvers.


Third party dispute resolution, organizational justice, communication, emotions, mediation

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