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#374: Be Cautious When Intervening in Client Disputes

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 19, 2010
Updated: Thursday, August 19, 2010
How should a consultant, not acting as a facilitator, just an observer, intervene when two members of a client staff are arguing? Is it better to just let the argument run its course or to intervene?

Whether you are a facilitator or not, your presumed independence and objectivity can be useful in resolving disputes. And if you understand the issues, you may be tempted to use your position to mediate. This does not, however, mean you should. Doing so depends on the arguing parties' trust in you as a neutral arbiter, the nature of the debate, and the implications of anyone's presumption that you "took sides," regardless of whether you did so or not.

Stay out of personal arguments that have nothing to do with the nature of your engagement. In fact, it might be prudent to remove yourself from the room and let the antagonists resolve this without you. In some cases, what appears to be an argument is instead two sides in "violent agreement." In cases like this, your entry into the mix may be very helpful, warranted and appreciated.

Tip: Know your capabilities and limits of your place in the client organization. Remember, it is unlikely you were hired to engage employees in their internal disputes. The risks are substantial if you do. If you feel you must intervene, approach your client sponsor with an offer to do so and take his or her direction.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  client relations  client staff  consultant role  customer understanding  roles and responsibilities 

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Jay Marks says...
Posted Friday, August 20, 2010
As an organization development consultant, I'm often resolving/facilitaing situations involving differences of opinion. I stay out of personal differences, and will check-in withthe sponsor to update him and get his pwrspective n the issues at hand. I find the most helpful approach is the "teach a man to fish..." perspective. I try to resolve situations in a way that gives managers the tools and ability to handle their own differences, rather than get mired in them.
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