Restorative Practices in Business

  • Mediation
  • Investigate (Inquiry)
  • Follow Through

What are Restorative Practices in Business?

Restorative Practices, overall, are strategies leaders and coaches use to repair damage that has been done in a human system. It takes into account that there are multiple points of view in any frustrating instance and all views need to be honored. There are a few key elements that organizational leaders need to be skilled in before trying this practice on their own.


Mediation      A skilled mediation is a key to a restorative environment. Many Human Resource managers are trained in this workforce retention strategy, but oftentimes it is avoided. In a restorative culture, it is understood that many times people need some help working through interpersonal problems. Given how hard it is to solve problems in our day-to-day lives, the workplace is no exception.       

The mediation should involve a pre-conference with each person involved. This allows people to speak their truth to a trusted mediator (it can be anyone with the ability to maintain confidentiality). They also get to practice what they would like the other person to know. The mediator needs to lead them to understand what happened between the two people, how it affected both individuals, and what agreements need to be made moving forward. A skilled mediator will understand if the conversation should continue in person based on the attitudes during the pre-conferences.       

Once the employees are able to have the mediated conversations, it is easy for them to hold each other accountable to their mutual agreements. This builds trust on the team and trust in the restorative process.

Investigate  A leader must be ready to ask real questions and listen to the answers. Using inquiry to really understand what the needs are; the team helps the leader know where repairs might be necessary. Reserve judgement during the investigation phase and take a lot of notes. Imagine yourself as a detective, looking for information that leads to a solution. Overall, though, what people really need is just a listening ear with no judgment and help coming to agreements to move forward.

Follow Through When teammates make agreements, it is important to revisit these agreements repeatedly to see if they are still applicable or reasonable. People might make agreements for collaboration, agreements after a mediation, or agreements as a workgroup without realizing how hard they are to meet. One example was a team that made the agreement of “go to the person,” but they realized that that was a harder agreement than they could stick to. When the team lead revisited the agreement, they realized they needed some tools to maintain that agreement and might actually need mediation sometimes, but the the real agreement was that they would take steps to solve interpersonal problems using they tools found for themselves to problem solve. 

     A skilled leader understands that these key elements are an initial investment of time with a team, with an amazing payoff later. The above practices are part of a restorative culture where people feel safe to be themselves and trust their leaders to coach them to support a healthy organization. Human systems need a way to reorient and restore their spaces so they can ensure that they are focus on the important values of the organization.