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Mediation is not that helpful in dealing with bullying behaviour

Mediation is about bring parties together to work through the conflict and arrive at a solution. It seems a great solution for bullying behaviour until you realise that bullying behaviour is not about disagreements or conflict. Being excluded from joining in because of the way you look is not conflict. Both sides not are trying to present their own views, it is one side using its power against the other.
A neutral person is used in mediation to help both parties to discuss their personal feeling and issues in relation to the conflict, so that each understands the other parties feeling and situation. Mediators can be a peer, staff member or outside facilitator. Those involved suggest ways to change and resolve the issue which then requires both parties to undertake some change. The mediator helps all parties to express their case and develop solutions.

The fact that mediation expects both parties to make changes is a key problem for dealing with bullying behaviour. If someone is using their power against you in a way that is unreasonable, why should the target have to change? The person using the bullying behaviour should be the one that needs to do things differently. This is why mediation is not that helpful in dealing with bullying behaviour unless it was triggered by conflict.


  • Helpful in low severity cases where power difference and fear is not significant
  • Useful when victim has provocative behaviours or behaviour stems from actual conflict
  • Voluntary participation
  • Can be competed on the spot after an incident
  • Uses whole organisation approach with ethos, structure and peer norms
  • Can use peer mediators which increases access to support as well as monitoring through out the organisation
  • Peer and/or staff mediation training provides valuable conflict management skills


  • Evidence of success in schools is inconclusive (Rigby, 2010)
  • This can only be used in conflict situations
  • Cannot address issues if one party refuses to be involved
  • Impossible to use if there is fear or large power differences at play (Tillet and French, 2006)
  • Requires impartial third party who is trained
  • When used for bullying behaviour it blames the target. It expects them to make concessions or adjust when they have not been provocative or involved in any conflict
  • Bullying behaviour users gain nothing from the process but can loose socially (e.g. peer standing) so can resist or later victimise target to regain status
  • Pressure on mediators to support the less powerful can undermine their neutral status
  • Requires widespread acceptance of the person(s) used as peer mediators
  • Involvement of peer mediator can be seen as a personal weakness and so can develop norms of fighting it out to maintain social status
  • Objections held by community stakeholders over process
  • Does not handle group situations very well

While mediation has a valuable role to play in conflict situations, it can victimise the targets of bullying behaviour further by asking them to change. It needs to be used with caution to ensure conflict is what is driving the behaviour.


Rigby, Ken (2010) Bullying Interventions in Schools: Six Basic Approaches

Sullivan, Keith (2011) The Anti-Bullying Handbook (2nd ed.)

Tillet, Gregory and French, Brendan (2006) Resolving Conflict: A Practical Approach (3rd Ed.)
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