Ombudsmanship and The Family Business

15 May 2011

In my “other practice” I just completed an 8 month-long “turnaround” of a small family owned manufacturing and distribution business.  Key to the final success was the smoothing out of a bumpy road at the beginning of the project by utilizing ombudsmanship with stakeholders by the owners. I’ve written in previous articles and defined “ombudsmanship”. Ombudsmanship is being asked for more and more in job descriptions and is similar to “sportsmanship” in that it’s a “soft skill” or quality that the individual brings with them and is aware of at all times in their functional responsibilities of their role or position.  Ombudsmanship is usually delivered “incognito” by the individual utilizing ADR style skills with individuals, teams, groups both intra or inter organization in terms of the individual and group dynamics.  In this business “case” I’ll go over some of the key methods and techniques where ombudsmanship was utilized as part of the engagement and was the “key difference” to success versus the absolute collapse and loss of a three decades old family heritage.

My role was as a business coach, consultant, ownership advisor and conflict management coach to owners. I’m also very aware, from mistakes I made in my “apprentice” years that focused only on the financial bottom line, that changing any business culture is more about conflict management than just business “metrics” and that focusing on conflict management as a priority in all “engagements” will get the metrics or results needed “indirectly”.  It’s a “given” that in any organization there is a culture with regards to the dynamics of intra and inter personal relationships that employees have based on their personality characteristics.  This is even more so for a family business operating for three decades.  So the balance to be struck is to use the inherent culture of the business and resulting conflict as the OPPORTUNITY to “shift the paradigm” towards a consistent “in the black” financial outcome while PRESERVING stakeholder relationships critical to function and revenue.

My point of contact was the oldest son with some ownership meetings with the mother and father who also worked day to day in the business.  The son had worked the business for many years and had an accounting degree, but now, parents had declared they wanted to “retire someday” and make the transition.  Unfortunately they made this declaration one full year AFTER the “economic collapse” began and the books started going “red” in gross revenue.  They tried for one year, all of 2009 to get back in the black, but couldn’t and turned to their son.  This “set the stage” for some real conflict and drama on a daily basis and is most likely the same for thousands of businesses today.  Armed with a business case history interview we began.  Some, not all, of the concise steps below:

  1. Put it on the table that there is going to be a shift in the culture of the company to “survive” and that there will be conflict in the chaos that will result in profitability IF “management” can apply new methods in functional systems CONSISTENTLY day to day.
  2. Map the organizational “dynamics” and structure for purposes of awareness in an informal internal family operating environment.  Recognizing that there are functional business structure as well as informal familial, age and gender dynamics evident where older employees and newer younger staff conflict (generations) where employees are treated as family; and where formal education is replacing informal apprentice style training and applying of skills, knowledge and wisdom.
  3. The map had intra-organizational structure of: son and both parents core administration, manufacturing and distribution department, marketing and sales with external road warriors and internal sales staff.  This map was typical in that manufacturing and sales rarely socialized or communicated “intra-department”.  Each employee was subjectively “assessed” for personality characteristics at the beginning and during ongoing changes so as to provide situational awareness and decision support regarding “status” and needed outcomes.
  4. The map had inter-organizational structure with partners, vendors, suppliers, stakeholders in the immediate community.  The “linkage” or nexus was identified again for purposes of situational awareness on identified potential conflict as changes unfolded.
  5. Provide conflict management information and coaching of the son as the new President and General Manager including keeping a journal of conflict events as they arise.
  6. Discussion of “applied” techniques and emotional support for management including identification of incremental successes, though they may appear to have a “negative” outcome.  This included KNOWING when to let events play out with employees, immediate intervention versus “sleeping on it” daily cycles and then observing over two week increments the decision results.
  7. A very favorable “ad hoc” look at results where several staff simply left the company in the exact departments and slots where the “next generation” of educated employees could fill gaps and form new “blended teams” with long established family business “members”.
  8. Key was incremental success with recognizing conflict is in the moment, to let it play out, identify employees who cannot adapt and work with them on “what they wish to do”. Identifying employees as “champions of change” and giving them influence roles. Adopt formal communication, cooperation and coordination cycles in the form of projects and monitor individuals behavior.  Getting confirmation from “parents” that the chaos has turned out well at various stages and the company is evolving while the bottom line returns to profitability again.  This provides “confidence” in the son to lead and was directly discussed and kept in focus with relation to “desire to retire someday” as a goal while demonstrating “real life” favorable bottom line outcomes.

In conclusion it’s important to note that the business related methods and solutions were not discussed here, but that the constant awareness for the potential for conflict in key functional positions would “trigger” emotional events.  We also gave owners the message to constantly motivate employees is that, “we have to do this or there won’t be a company anymore and thus a job either”.  I’m certain “variations” of this message were constantly given, including recommended “memos” with each employee signing off that they acknowledge the gravity of the situation in today’s economy.  Keeping this as the ‘prime goal’ for employees to focus on at all times, while monitoring conflict related to implementation of solutions that forever changed the organization resulted in 13 jobs saved, 2 new jobs (one in each department), 1 outsourced function, restoration of 4 figures “in the black” net profit monthly within 2 months of launch and new-found “confidence” for EVERYONE in the company as to what they achieved is a favorable end result… is it not?

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Ombudsperson Due Care: United Way 211 Services

9 December 2010

In as much as I keep promising myself that I won’t do pro bono work anymore, I’ve done, once again, a fair amount of it this year.  An email or phone call comes in, I open the intake document and before I know it my “little voice” is telling me to take the case anyway regardless of payment.  In any case though I believe “we”, as professionals, are obligated and have a duty to follow through and provide additional due care that often extends outside our ADR procedures.

The definition of “due care” has legal, moral and personal safety terms in it, check your local dictionary.  During intake we are alert to personal safety issues at all times and so even after our diligence is complete, the obligation may not be over.  In such circumstances I recommend United Way 211 Information and Referral search engine to assist you, the ombudsperson, in the role of personal coach, advocate and facilitator to assist “impacted” clients.  This is a very effective role, as a third party in an advocate role because the gate keepers for services and resources will cooperate more fully than if the distressed client is representing themselves.  The UW 211 Service has been very effective and helpful to me as a “one stop” resource for any community in the USA where community services are now needed to help stabilize the “aftermath” of failed negotiations or life threatening event.

In my most recent case where I used United Way 211 my client had no computer, but had contacted me to assist her and her 3 children regarding eviction.  My decision to help was sealed when I was able to confirm her story with the FBI field agent in charge of her case where Citibank and Chase Bank employees are charged with mortgage fraud.  She gave me his number and he returned the call in minutes confirming she’s a material witness in his case.  After she lost her home she found expensive housing near her sons local high school and took it to try and keep his life stable too.  The results over the last year is that the stress of everything crumbling, like for millions now in the world, is she ended up losing her job as a Certified Physician Assistant and went on Social Security Disability.  To make a long story short we faxed “permission” to be an advocate for her with the property management company.  Negotiations lasted 3 days, which is all I was willing to spend, as they took the tactic of participating in conference calls to negotiate freezing her rent and avoiding any increases till June of 2011 when her son graduates high school and they can move.  No answers were ever given, though we could tell they were sending the request through channels.  In the end the property management took the position that “the going market rate” for her 3 bedroom apartment was actually higher than the increase.  I couldn’t leave the conversation without pointing out that the only reason they could do that was that they were ignoring “extended family” and “multi-tenant” rules of the property where more than one bread-winner occupies the unit.  Negotiations failed, eviction notice pending in 3 days.

What followed was half a day of consoling the client who was now extremely distraught.  As soon as I verbally and firmly assured her I would not “leave her behind” she settled down and began to focus with me; we got to work.  I told her I needed some time to put some things together.  In some cases I simply refer people to United Way 211, but in this case, she had no Internet, only a phone and was so emotionally impacted I had to lead and support her for a while.  Within one week we had her a new apartment under a state subsidized program and by her son’s high school.  We had move in funds from a local charity listed in UW 211 saying they specifically provide that in emergencies.  We also secured her a refurbished used computer from a Christian Ministry in the area.  She’s also applied for food stamps and disability is now approved through 2011 given “letters” we obtained to prove her case.

In closing, the “due care” process in my experience often extends beyond handling a case and in many cases the political and corporate “wranglings” that go on to delay critical decisions for the client go on into perpetuity.  Time is most often on the side of the larger more powerful entity in such situations.  You therefore should develop contingencies, make it part of your “best practice”, in your own practice to assist clients who are often emotional and severely “impacted” by slow bureaucracy that may just be benign about assisting or employees are “bound” by policy and procedure that takes years, if ever, to process.  Additionally, if UW 211 has gaps in resources needed, simply Google a list of non-profits by zip code for the case at hand and see what pops up.

Happy Holidays too to all…


The New Ombudsperson: Asymmetrical Dispute Coaching Trend

9 September 2010

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.


Ombudsman ADR: “Factual Context” Technique

22 August 2010

Normally, by June or July, I like to do something on trends for the year and 2010 trends are something very different from 2009 and all my my previous experience with dispute or conflict management “internally”.  Contacts with individuals is up, but actually getting to the table or taking an engagement is down considering the ratio of contacts to intakes.  There is a variety of contributing factors, but I’d like to take this moment to focus on something to help anyone in our “craft” keep a handle on the turmoil and chaos they may be experiencing with “potential” clients.

It’s no secret by now that there is a lot of economic chaos happening as we speak and this adds exponentially to individual and group stress resulting in conflict.  My projections for small and medium sized business at the beginning of the year, unfortunately, are proving to be even more serious than I could have “existentially” imagined.  Large corporations are another situation all together currently, with both positive and negative impacts on individuals and communities “they serve”.  It’s tough, it’s hard for everyone, even the “elite” are complaining they didn’t get their full “due” when they had to step down, getting only half their millions instead of all that their interest was worth two years ago.  Currently, as I’m contacted, the issues revolve around “survival” of the business, employees as “family” now, while maintaining some, I repeat, some level of courtesy and decorum.  Regarding partner relationships between contracted employees, long time customers or supplier companies they had contracts or agreements to do business with, these are simply dissolving rapidly.  As I read the news and “listen” to what comes in, clearly there is a split down the middle and the normal bell curve one would expect to reflect the middle class income bracket is now inverted, but it’s more than just a “dip” in the road.

Our frustration has been to communicate clearly, get a good intake, listen carefully, but invariably emotions, anger, tension are more at the “surface” of what someone may have to say about their struggles and establishing any form of “factual context” concerning what basis they have for a complaint is exaggerated, embellished and misrepresented oft times.  Continued “cycling” with a focus on “lesser emotional struggling” and pointing out that perpetuating the “struggle” will not get to a goal they want.  I find myself, in trying to be altruistic and proactive for them, becoming more of just a “listener” while refusing to take the role of “anger management” counselor.  Keeping with “factual context” can circumvent the individuals emotional struggles, anger and even depression and provide the context to focus on their goals as a solution to the problem and establish again or learn to “own” an ethical approach again.

As a technique towards a “permanent” solution, it doesn’t always work, but to cut through the emotional chaos of the moment, we find the following has helped:

  • Frequently remind them in the interview that we need to document the factual context of the dispute.
  • More patience is required at this moment, but they can speed things up if they can just relax and focus on our exchange.
  • If I hear something potentially out of context, make a note and check it again after some time has passed.
  • Ask them to slow down and “reflect” on their statements and determine if they “ring true” or is something else happening.
  • Can they produce any material that supports a factual context versus their emotional declaration in the moment.
  • If detected in the “cycling”, ask them to check themselves to see if they are reverting back to “emotional struggling” again.
  • Asking if they see themselves contributing calmly to a solution and even questioning if they want that or something else.
  • Creating “factual context” list as their constant reminders prior to “shuttling” and/or them contacting the other party.
  • Ask them to meditate or contemplate in quiet, their situation and then contact us again after 48 hours.

Yes, I’ve written about the “blue ocean” of opportunity many times and it’s certainly over flowing currently, not just on the OO side, but in my other business consultancy also.  I have to admit, as busy as things are, it can get or am overwhelmed lately and for the first time I have to watch my energy, not get drained or let “burn out” take over.  I have to watch my own “tensions” with family and friends more, how about you?  Focusing on and firmly addressing and discovering the facts about their issue related to the context of their situation has proven a good technique or method to help keep a sustained focus; thus bringing “order from chaos” as best as possible.  It prevents excessive levels of “complexity” being introduced also, because often individuals want to discuss more than what can be handled and go out of “context”.  I hope these trend observations and discussion will help all who read it here as we are going to be more challenged than ever in months and years ahead to “make a choice” to peacefully resolve disputes/conflicts or polarize and damage personal, business and economic relationships; possibly beyond repair.


Ombudsman ADR & Online Dispute Resolution Technology

28 April 2010

If you’ve been following the OO Blog since inception you know “we” are just over a year old into our formal practice, which is a “spin off” of our other two-decades old consultancy.  So after just a little over a  year we are right in line with how we envisioned the delivery of services as an extension and “leveraging” of our long established “internal” capacity and in alignment with the current and future demands of the consumer.  We have long been able to easily roll out improvements for any function, process or procedure for most businesses by moving in tiny incremental steps in the development.  More and more though, the Internet and web based applications are providing great “value”, enhancements and cost savings with simple customization of forms, templates and content to achieve very good functional outcomes and at a reasonable cost.

All of our clients to date have engaged us via the Internet to do ODR or Online Dispute Resolution, which is now a pretty standard and accepted industry acronym.  ADR too, or Alternative Dispute Resolution has gained wide acceptance and more inclusive terminology is being adopted and adapted currently to better fit the Ombuds profession.  I’ve stressed the difference and tried to define Ombudsman ADR verus legal ADR too and specific meanings with regarding the term “mediation”.  As we pick up the pace our own proprietary solution to do intake and sequentially process steps for dispute resolution have worked just fine for the majority of our cases.  We are though, fortunately, just after one year, considering ODR Technology or Applications as a next step now in our own progress.

As with any business process or practice the real value of Web2.0, Group Ware and other team based collaborative applications is that it provides a standardized set of processes and procedures for communication, but proprietary processes need vertical applications or extensive customization.  By adopting ODR web based application technology you have a built in checklist from intake to settlement that insures everyone is participating fully, technical detail and steps are not forgotten and best practice compliance is built in with every step of the process.

Of all of the current ODR applications I’ve considered, I like Juripax currently because of it’s emphasis on proper preparation at the time of intake and focus on ethical and transparent  procedures that are built into the application.  There is also the de-emphasis of legal terminology in this package because as participants engage each other in the ADR process I’ve noticed that many times, even breathing a wrong word about “legal alternatives” can be explosive and I have had to coach clients to take care less they wish to escalate in the wrong direction.  The Juripax ODR solution is perfect for streamlined “non-legal” processes that are standardized by default for quick assessment and for a variety of types of complaints in B2B, B2C, institutional and community scenarios.  The platform guides you through the process and easily keeps you on track with where you last left off and with who.  Terminology and content are in alignment with currently practiced Ombudaman ADR “lingo” so as to be able to “facilitate” informal discussion and log it all the way through formal legal mediation if the case needs a “hand off” way down the road.

I won’t labor the benefits and features in detail other than to say this package is perfect for a newer practice that is in their second or third year of the business cycle and more formal business practices are now needed to have quality assurance, best practice and now technology to handle higher intake volume.  Regarding key strategy and still evolving “general practice” versus specialization for handling types of disputes, the package handles it all and does not lock you in, but rather adapts as your need to.  Very important as the external environment shifts year to year and you have to align with opportunity as it presents.

So with all of the changes in terminology in the profession that still being hashed out, much of the time with a big or little “e” in front of it… my take now is ADR and ODR will be locked in and accepted by our industry from now and into the future.  ADR and ODR are the means and method for the most efficient, practical and modern formal process to handle local to national and even global disputes in all industries utilizing the Internet to deliver their products or services and where disputes about something serious invariably pop up.


The New Ombudsman: Esotericism and Ethics

24 January 2010

It’s the time of year where we all look back over the last year and prepare to continue the voyage by adapting, learning and adjusting our sails so to speak.  In reviewing my contributions on this blog, easily, one of the constant themes I advocate is the “ethics and integrity” of the profession.  I have been doing this because my personal experiences and knowledge have led me, over the decades, to identify these personality characteristics as being key to general business success.  It’s NOT enough to simply talk about “best practice” or what your company is doing to be more socially responsible and attuned to the needs of stakeholder, the local community and customers.  It’s important to BE “it” and it takes courage to do so at the risk of being “politically incorrect” since, depending on the source of information, approximately 80-90% of the population lacks “ethics” as a basis to conduct their relationships.  So, in order to provide some basis I’d like to share something very interesting I discovered over the holidays from a family member who validated my consideration of “ethics” in society in a very esoteric way.

During the holidays we all chat and catch up with each other, share opinions on every topic imaginable and one of those topics was December 21st in the year 2012.  There are all forms of entertainment and esoteric research documentaries on this, just Google 2012 video for a long list of links.  I’ve personally spent some leisure time watching them, including prophecy regarding the Mayan Calendar and the 2012 date.  What one particular family member had to introduce me to was more interesting to me than anything else about the “the end of the world” and that was the Mayan Calendar of the Conscious Evolution of Earth.  If you have to scroll down to see it, I’ve put it at the end of the post here, right click on it for a larger view in another tab or new window as you read along with me.

As I have now researched and read and had it explained to me by my sibling, this calendar is a MAP of our Universe with relation to it’s Consciousness expanding and moving from single cell life through billions of years to become “homo-sapient” today.  Personally, I can see, as I contemplate the Calendar Steps of the pyramid, that some civilizations and cultures are in their Tribal  and Regional stage of development and achievement.  In other civilizations it depicts scientific, technological and advances in awareness at the Planetary and Galactic levels.   The map also depicts the same number of steps you’d see on a pyramid if visiting any one of them on the Yucatan Peninsula.  The first step is the inception of the Universe and “life” as we know it.  I won’t take time to go into excess detail, but anyone interested should research this for themselves knowing that the Mayans had this as a form of reference and it was given to them by the God “Quetzalcoatl” according to myth or legend, take your pick.

So here I am, looking at this esoteric information and I can’t help, but notice what my family member has pointed out to me based on a discussion about “important personal characteristics to be an ombudsman”; and that is on the 8th step up.  In January 5th of 1999 we entered the Galactic phase of conscious evolution and the cornerstone of what “life” is to achieve is… the practice of Ethics in our relationships and everything we do.  For me personally I have just observed the world around me, watched the news and other media flooding our minds daily and long ago came to my own conclusion that people want truth, honesty, character, integrity, justice, fairness and any other relevant adjective you can think of and they are screaming for it daily all around us.  While they scream for it from our representatives in government, the even bigger question and test is going to be, “will they become “it” themselves first?”  Anyway, if you glance up to the 10th and last step, Universal consciousness, this happens almost 2 full years prior to December 21, 2012 and to me this means we are going to see significant change and the conscious integration of all previous “steps”.  These are not single moments or events in time, but from what I have been told and learned, these are the final steps in our current 76,000 year evolutionary path from an Earth perspective.

In the last year I’ve noticed that clients demand transparency in business, “mouth it” to others, but a vast majority of my time is spent coaching or raising awareness where an individual is emotionally caught up in the idea of justice for themselves at the expense of others.  In order for our profession to help people move out of this, we need to seriously check ourselves and be sure we too are able to, for example, not concern ourselves so much with our own self serving needs in ADR work, but making sure we can communicate and move others to follow our example and listen to and meet ethical needs of others.  I would say, and this is just a glimpse here, we are on the verge of being in a new “Ethical Age” and the dynamics and interactions between individuals up through world government is fascinating to observe; and given the moment of chance… advance to a more Ethical world.  If you really wanted to be in the right profession at the right time… it appears we are in the right place.

Happy New Year to everybody… from the heart.

Fig. A  The Mayan Calendar of Conscious Evolution of Earth


Ombudsman ADR: The “Due Care” Process

1 July 2009

Recently a young couple from Ontario Canada emailed me asking for my “intervention” on their behalf with the Ontario Provincial Ombudsman’s Office.  Their expectation was clearly that I would “leap into action” and make everything “right” based on their perceptions of my blog and the drastic economic hardship situation they’re in, still in this moment; and that I could “fix” it.  Their communication and situation, as it is with millions of people nowadays, was filled with panic and chaos in the messages and material they emailed to me.  I have to admit, I initially took the “case” at face value with the idea that I could “facilitate” and expedite their issue that was pressing in on them in their dire quest towards getting “communication” going with officials in government.  This case is about not taking short cuts, making assumptions, but remaining diligent and objective at all times; and keeping with “due care”… here’s why.

In business we’ve all heard of “due diligence”, the process in business and finance of determining the validity of information, peoples identity, facts, confirmation, the truth and many other factors in what is usually a very long checklist of items needed for a broad variety of organizations to “make a decision” and determine risk prior to any formations, transactions or partnerships.  “Due Care” is less diligent, but highly relevant for our profession in terms of determining the validity of a complaint, fact checking and then getting the information from “others” or various sources so as to form a basis, substantiate or confirm information provided by everyone party to the complaint or issue.

For this couple the concise issue was very complex, more complex than I realized after saying “yes” email it all.  By the way, the good thing about Gmail is whole “conversations” come over “in tact and in sequence”; and in this case this saved me tons of time as I could read pages of email in order of response (or see gaps) by each Canadian government agency.  In brief, the case is about an “engaged to be married” couple (complainants) who have put off the ceremony due to the economy and her loss of job, his loss of “normal” overtime hours, their apartment complex going “condo association” and being forced to move (about now from what I remember) their financial obligations on student loans, credit card debt, funds needed to put down deposits to move and the “key” issues of child support to his 3 children with his ex-common law wife who is now remarried.  I can’t help but put here, “are all of you who are considering an ombudsman career ‘sure’ you want to do this?”  Anyway, I took the case knowing I’m “on the outside working in” as the dynamic if I’m to take any “direct contact” approach, but am hoping to “coach” them to resolve it themselves.

After days of review on my “down time” I started my “due care” process.  I didn’t take a complaint form as it was not applicable.  Soon what became the core finding was that the government office that makes adjustments in decrease or increase in child support levels year to year had then forward their “findings” to the court.  The “court orders” their child support rate obligations to the 3 children changed, in this case it was  “significantly up” and final “hearings” to confirm this were pending.  To the couples credit they “did the math”, I was proud of them, as they sent the percentage calculations over to me on their “one person” salary income household, subtracted obligations and the new percentage of income the increase in child support represented as a “chunk” shall we say, of their total household income.  Calculations were also correct.  In the end, long story short again, calculations by the government office and given to the court were formulated on 2008 wages, which were “loaded” with overtime hours.  Now, for 2009, everything has collapsed, their normal two wage earner household now unable to “gross minimum wage” anymore and the “threat” of being “forced” by government to comply looms over them with possible seizures of bank accounts and drivers license suspensions (needed to go to work).  What I was able to do was find where a few “missteps” on their part in the government policy and procedure had been “anxiously circumvented” rather than processed in “order of sequence” and so we got them back on track by now filing an “objection form” with the government agency and I helped them “refine and consolidate” their message.  I am confident “O’ Canada”, you will listen to your citizens needs here and be “fair”.  I’ve “kept the door open” for this couple and have not heard back in about 5 weeks now, but it should proceed okay now as they are “back in sequence” with government procedures on their issue.

Additionally, all OO’s in this type of scenario can provide advice and “listen” so as to “calm panic”.  You can provide “wisdom” about available community resources, sharing a place to live with others in similar situations temporarily, identify resources in their community for them as they are “focused” on the crises and not focused in making choices to “sustain” themselves; and much more.  Be careful about “credit counseling” as this is a separate profession and industry that is regulated; and so don’t make a “mistake” and over step your due process while exercising your “due care” procedures.

In the end this case never required that I “engage” the Canadian Ombudsman’s Provincial Office in Ontario.  The clients had contact them and received “no response”, but I suspect it’s because the couple had not exhausted proper procedure with the responsible government agencies they were “complaining” about.  Due Care requires “we” insure such processes are exhausted and completed before an ombudsperson engages.  If “due care” and taking time to review “every word” of the case had not been completed “diligently”, I could have “over stepped” or even worse; advised them into taking action maybe creating a  “polarizing” incident.  You too then?  Due Care at all times, be sure, be professional, be objective and consider policy and procedure of those entities clients have “issues” about in complex scenarios.