The New Ombudsperson: Asymmetrical Dispute Coaching Trend

In continuing to look at and compare 2009 to 2010 trends in our OO practice it’s clear that the majority of new intakes end up being Conflict Management or Dispute Coaching from “one side of the table” so to speak.  I have also been able to be more selective about the types of engagements I take due to increased volume and less time to handle everything that comes.  My “other practice” contributes equally with my OO practice towards identifying opportunity and offering services to others in need.  Fees have stayed consistent and volume is good compared to trying to get agreement to mediate from both side of the table.

The types of conflicts or disputes we get involved with vary widely, but all have current economic “deterioration or erosion” themes to them.  We take only organizational or business entity type cases where there are either “internal” issues between principals or “external” B2B/B2C issues over products or services; and partnership issues.  Individuals are “getting divorced” in business or seeking justice and fairness from a business or corporation that has taken advantage of them.

We are getting more email about large corporations seizing cash in bank accounts and then closing them up with no method or recourse. The client has “no notice” from a bank for example. Add insult to injury and the financial institution is inflating fees, creating new fees and forcing people into collections over fees they issued before even having a customer service person provide assistance.  You’ll read these stories in the news… I’m advising people to call, write, email their Congressional Rep.  There is more, but this is typical.

Another instantly agreed upon point with our clients is that they are in consensus with us and take a position where the objective is to resolve the issue without “financial damage” to the extent it’s going to collapses or kill the business entity off.  In the case of small online businesses, there is often not a lot of capital or insurance “laying around” that they can lose, unlike Fortune size companies who pay it out and then pass it down to their customers later.  We do see some “sense of entitlement” from individuals looking to score a “settlement” with large and small companies and advise with full ethical considerations taking extra time to “present perspective” from how the “they” view it and then sort out what’s equitable.

Our skills in “business valuations” and “intellectual property valuations” or determining the “value” of work in a contract have given us the basis to assist principals in breaking up a company, sorting out ownership, preserving resources and “rights” and then moving forward into their individual interests as quickly as possible. Yes, time is a motivator to get things resolved in this case.  I also tend to point out how fortunate they are to even be able to have something to divvy up in comparison to what is happening nationwide since 2007… they too agree.

So, it used to personally “distress me” a bit that I couldn’t get “both sides” to the table at the beginning of this year and instead I just roll with it now.  I have never had the other party come to the table late, they seem content to work it through on their own.  I often work “incognito” with my clients and do not try to provide intervention immediately myself.   I often take any statements or email from “the other side” and use to to bring perspective from, instead of a “point of conflict” view my client has, to a “point of neutrality” and objectivity for them based on what I can glean or gain through insight.  It’s proven successful over and over this year to do this type of Ombudsperson ADR.

Good luck in the “blue ocean” and I hope everyone is able to make a difference, bring peace, preserve resources, maintain dignity for all parties.

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