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#314: Getting in the Middle of Client Disputes

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 27, 2010
Updated: Thursday, May 27, 2010
I have occasionally found myself in the middle of client disputes in which one person comes to me to complain about another, who has already complained to me about the first. If the goal of my engagement is to improve morale, is this a reasonable part of my scope of work?

This is more common than one would think. As a trusted advisor to a client sponsor and, in many cases, client staff, you are a logical and comfortable option for venting of internal issues, be they operational, political or personal. It is gratifying that people can come to you with the intent of resolving conflict but this is a problem for both you and them.

However, much of your value to a client is your independence and objectivity. By placing yourself in the middle of a conflict, especially if it is between staff and management, you lose the perception, if not fact, of independence and objectivity. It is highly likely that someone will consider your role in the resolution of the conflict as partisan, which reduces your effectiveness as a consultant for the larger part of your engagement.

Tip: It is best to counsel those who come to you with conflicts that they are best served using the established company channels or, if not an official company issue, to address directly the person with whom they have an issue. Don’t confuse their trust of you as license to mediate. There may, however, be a beneficial opportunity for you to use the situation to contribute to helping the client, if only to advise in the improvement of processes or policies that led to the creation or resolution of the issue, but it should be outside of the particular issue itself.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client staff  consultant role  ethics  goodwill  reputation  roles and responsibilities 

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