How much should a consultant get involved in mediating disputes among client staff? As a trusted and objective advisor, client staff come to me to with problems with other staff and looking for me to broker a solution. Is this appropriate?
There are two issues here: should you and can you? First, what is the scope of your engagement? Is your assigned role that of staff counselor or is doing so outside the specific scope of work? If your role, as discussed with your sponsor, is to work with staff and the relevant HR department to mediate and counsel, then do so. If it is not, and you have not discussed with your sponsor whether you are empowered to do so, then back away from this activity. This does not mean you can't talk with staff and hear their concerns. It does mean, however, that you should not be taking on a role for which you have not been engaged.
Second, are you qualified to counsel staff? Just because you are technically adept in one area and perceived by staff as a trusted advisor does not give you cause to involve yourself in interpersonal relationships among client staff. Like consulting, coaching/counseling is a profession, and too many consultants assert their qualifications as coaches without have the training or competence. Staff are usually asking not just for your opinion (easy for a consultant) but for some advice (which obligates you to have competence and creates accountability for the outcomes of your actions).Tip:
Some consultants just seem to be trusted implicitly by clients and staff. If you are one, then it is likely that in most engagements, staff will come to you for advice. This is diagnostically relevant, because it likely means there is insufficient opportunity, culture or mechanisms to support feedback, communication or problem resolution in the organization. If this is the case, share this information with your sponsor and, only if appropriate and you are qualified, discuss extending your role to advising staff. © 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA