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.

blogtalkradio: Negotiate!

18 February 2010

This week I just happened to be talking with a prospective client searching for answers, but not “complaining”.  By coincidence they mentioned an Internet radio broadcast they listen to called Negotiate! The show is sponsored by Paulo Amaral a mediator from southern California.  It appears he’s broadcasting one to two shows a month.

The show is oriented towards both consumers and practitioners.  By example Mediation Career Guide by Woody Mosten will be broadcast 23 February 2010 at 10pm and you can call into the show and ask questions.  I’ve tried to support others transitioning into an ADR and Ombuds career field with information and perspective… this would be a good show to listen in on… should be about one hour.  Previous episode titles you can play on demand include: The Promise of Mediation: a transformative view of conflict.  ADR by Hon Dorothy Nelson of the US Court of Appeals.  112 Ways to Succeed in Any Negotiation or Mediation with Steven Mehta and last on the current list is Repairing Your Credit with Edie Driskill.

I’m certain if anyone wants to be on Paulo Amaral’s show… just give him a call and a pitch and you too could be on blogtalkradio: Negotiate!

The New Ombudsman and The Blue Ocean

20 August 2009

If you are a “regular” with the Organizational Ombudsman Blog you’ve noticed I weave the term “new ombudsman” into much of my commentary.  Within the context of my topics, my intent is no accident, as I am working to define new “Ombudsman ADR” in differentiation to what consumers perceive as traditional mediation, or legal ADR.  I’m “pro choice” and believe we need the legal profession to bring justice in applicable circumstances, but with the increased conflict and misery in the vast majority of societies globally, 7 plus billion people now, there should be an alternative for individuals seeking PEACE AND STABILITY versus material greed and punishing vengeance for less than criminal issues.  I could write forever on all aspects of this topic, but instead, let’s keep it to clarifying the definition of the “new ombudsman” and the “blue ocean” we can swim together as peace builders for groups of individuals in our organizations and communities.

First, the “new ombudsman” is a progressive philosopher and an eclectic thinker.  They are most likely a “boomer”, born of the 60’s movements and now, today, wise to the ways to not only live peacefully, but able to articulate, “practice what they preach” and technically translate education, knowledge and wisdom into a “new profession” to the benefit of others.  Yes, some are lawyers, some are psychologists, some are social workers, teachers, retired from the profession they now “mediate” to; it’s an “inclusive” mix of professions and people.  They didn’t know it, but looking back on their career and life they were using “ombudsmanship” all along and now want to make it their calling.  They are technologically savvy, can grasp and get a handle on complex (Gordian Knot) circumstances and issues, they can do mental analysis faster than a computer, they are skilled “generalists” in their life and profession, their degrees and certificates are “translatable and applicable” in terms of value towards peace making regardless of what “others” tell them and they know it and are not deterred.  More than anything else, they can “see outside the legal box” and let themselves guide clients to resolve conflicts in “their own self directed paradigm” with their own goals, values, morals, “relativistic” ethics and terms as the only basis that matters.  While this is highly idealistic the process helps “synergize” the exchange of culture, ideas, “different from mine” perspectives and thus provides the process for change and understanding.  In the end, the case may never reach the “consent” stage in The 6 C’s of Sociocratic Peace Building and the “new ombudsman” may never have “personal validation”, but in the end the “measure” is the practical outcomes or results of the process; or at least the cessation of conflict where they had the courage to “give it a try”.

As New Ombudsmen we will always have opportunity and clients everywhere we go, we are, capable of neutralizing opposing polarizing actions in formal “informal” processes, incognito and helping to harmonize life wherever the opportunity presents itself.  In Buddhism the first Noble Truth of the Four Noble Truths is:  life is suffering.  Indeed, there are all forms of suffering, some beyond our control, but what the Zen Buddhist knows, “if you see him”, is that we mostly make our suffering with each other.   In psychology my favorite “master” is Maslow because he was the only guy in the field to study “happy people” versus “anomalies and mental disease” that consumes practitioners to this day.  He discovered happy people get their needs met in his hierarchy of identified basic and optimal human needs model.  In our role as “new ombudsmen”, we might want to keep this in mind, you’d be surprised how this can reduce “suffering” if we can mediate with clarity for the employer and the employees, for example, or the corporation and the local community.  These types of issues don’t need “the law” to tell us what the solution must be.

When I wake up each day my job is to look at “The Blue Ocean” in my local community and through the “Windows” of my computer globally for my own practice and my clients.  Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant is a Harvard Business School published book by W. Chan Kim and Renee’ Mauborgne.  The contrast to the Blue Ocean in the book is the Red Ocean.  The definition is complex and ever evolving but basically Blue Oceans are markets, opportunities and as yet undefined industries that are evolving and “paradigm shifting”.  In Red Oceans, these are the traditional industry segments, clusters, targets, products, services that have a life cycle and are “controlled” by government and big business.  If you want to “contrast” this first hand for yourself as it relates to “our” industry, I STRONGLY recommend you read the Blue Ocean book AND Making Peace Making Money: Economic Analysis of the Market for Mediators in Private Practice  (January 2009) by Urska Velikonja a member of the Red Ocean “legal elite” and the Harvard Law School.  Her analysis is complete, accurate, concise and 100% valid for legal mediators… but I don’t swim in that ocean and the new ombudsman does not either.  I live in the Blue Ocean, the symbology of the color is very relevant for me personally and the vastness of the opportunity for all of us “new ombudsmen” is needed for decades to come in service to others who do not have “elite” access.

Lately, the new ombudsman in the “blue ocean” faces “establishment” challenges.  There are plenty of “traditional institutions, agencies and organizations” around to tell them “you don’t fit and you are not qualified”.  To get even more critical about it, the “red ocean sharks” would say we are equivalent to “quacks” in the medical profession… they too told “alternative medicine” for decades, “your methods are not valid, not approved or tested, not based on the laws of science and are against the law”.  In the handful of cases I’ve had so far in my new practice the last 11 months I had to “first hand” face a lawyer as a “party” in a complaint.  The lawyer was “mediation certified” and loaded with degrees and had “tried and tested” experience.  The “new ombuds” must be prepared and have the courage to face such scenarios towards peaceful resolution of disputes where legal practitioners get “entangled” or even instigate everyday “suffering” and “polarizing” as the legal, social and economic landscape shifts for “common people”.  These are just a very few examples, but this is going to go on for decades and makes up a small segment of the “blue ocean” for the new ombudsman.

An Ombud’s Cornerstone: Character and Integrity

30 July 2009

My contributions to the dialogue on Professional Certification for “our” profession has been that “personal character and integrity” are critical to professional and ethical practice in the broader “conflict resolution” industry.  I have even suggested it be part of the certification considerations.  At this time I’m reading more stories, news and blogs that are all publishing “media” around this very important theme and concept.  Everything from “common courtesy”, apology and thank you to simply NOT choosing to make an issue with someone by picking a single fault and making a major drama out of it.  Even more critical is that “our profession” has the opportunity to “differentiate” ourselves from the general public perceptions and “generic brands” of legal mediation by “practicing what we preach” and staying in true “ombudsmanship” form at all times, not just while “practicing”.   So, at this time I’ll provide 3 items for your consideration that add onto the body of work already out there and being discussed that “hint at integrity and character”, but what are now “point blank”  very applicable and relevant given the consumer’s perspective today.

While it’s been circulating for awhile, Deborah Sword PhD has written an outstanding article, Professionalization of Conflict Resolvers, that weaves several concepts into the common theme that “character and integrity” are “ancient societal traits” that community members recognize and want by asking community leaders for guidance and assistance to resolve their conflict.  Basically, she and I both agree that society would prefer someone known and respected for their integrity  in a community to help them first and then consider “degrees, licenses and professional certifications” as being important, but not the primary factor for selecting someone.  While these accreditation’s may be important, they are more associated with “elitist” professions that have more “self interest” than shall we say, “community member interest” and this is evident in American society today.  I don’t have the source, but sometime back I was reading a news article where a high school principle was asked to step forward and “mediate” a community meeting between members of an African American Church and a Korean owned quick mart in Los Angeles.  Both “sides” having grown up in the community and “knowing” the principle as being “fair” and trustworthy, simply asked him to help them, and he did and “racial issues”, both false and real, were sorted out.  As a result a community “council” was also formed to help provide a venue for “future” needs and well… all of this outside of the legal system and police intervention.  So, if you have or have not read Professionalization of Conflict Resolvers, read it now for the underlying trend, the “unspoken” theme through out the article about “teaching, practicing and relying on one’s own character and integrity”.

Next, I had the opportunity recently to participate in an on-line discussion around “group mediation”.  Tammy Lenski PhD of Conflict Zen made a one hour presentation on her three decades long experience mediating to groups, not individuals and not from a legal dispute model, but simply that there are business and organizational groups in conflict sometimes and informal ajudication is not the goal.  By the time the hour was over I was personally very aware that she trades on her own established “character and integrity” more than her degrees or certificates, which she never mentioned as being of a high level of importance to “corporate clients”.  Indeed, she echoed my own experience and I can affirm she’s “got it down”, her “walking the talk” of character and integrity adding more confidence and trust as a result for all individuals and entities that get the priveledge to “engage” with her.  I hope they realize how fortunate they are.  More important, her own “proprietary method and approach” has been refined and shared with clients as she delivers a program where she educates them and makes them enabled, empowered and qualified to manage their own disputes long after she’s left the conference room.  This is in alignment with my own process and goal in The 6 C’s of Sociocratic Peace Building.  Also, again, I can’t help but think about, same with Deborah Sword, how they both “enable” individuals to go out into their families, groups, entities, organizations and communities to be “peace makers” wherever they go.  Nice…

Finally, a true story and video example of “real life” and how character and integrity “work for you” in times of “personal crisis and conflict”.  Many years back my youngest son came home from high school, I was working, but he smelled smoke at our townhouse complex, looked around and saw the garages behind the units had “smoke” coming out of a few of them.  He called 911 and police and fire came and damage was minimal, thank you son.  To keep this as short as possible, what happened next was amazing to me.  Police took him, cuffed him and were going to take him in for questioning.  He asked for a “phone call” at that moment, he called me and I “came home” immediately.  I engaged police and the on scene fire chief who quoted statistics to me that over 70% of the time a fire is reported it’s started by the “person reporting” the fire.  I then said, “you guys stop now and ask any of these neighbors around us about my son” and if he is of a “character” to warrant your suspicions that he  started the fire; since you don’t believe me as his father.  Indeed, they walked over to the wife of a man who months earlier had fallen down outside his home with a heart attack and my son got the EMT’s that saved the man’s life.  In the end, they let him go and subsequent investigation indicated a “smoker”, which my son was not a smoker, threw a cigarette into an “open garage door” when no one was looking.  So now, this last week, a famous African American Professor and a Causcasian Policeman are in a “racial profiling dispute”, but once again, established character and integrity and the cornerstone in this case and the  “the stone of truth” as offered by his fellow “peers”, of all races.  This is the CNN story video link to view “integrity” first hand.

So, foster it, nurture it, change your own subtle “conflicting” habits so as to be able to be an acknowledged professional of “known character” and your standing will differentiate you from the rest.  In “today’s world”, this is what consumers are seeking… in the midst of questionable ethics and chaos.

The “Incognito” Ombudsman: A Professional Development Exercise

16 July 2009

I am fully aware of my strengths and weaknesses and more importantly how a personality characteristic for forthright leadership, for example, can be useful in one professional role, but a weakness in another role.  The “trick” is to be aware and let oneself “switch roles” as appropriate, be able to consistently hold to that role and “temper” the skill or strength towards the goal or objective at hand on behalf of clients and not one’s own “interests”.  If you have the opportunity to do this, “practice” it, it can harmonize your strengths in that they won’t become an out of control “weakness” by applying them inappropriately.  It’s also empowering as the “new ombudsman” realizes they can achieve absolute control and mastery over emotions and “ego habits” that could interfere in ADR scenarios where “it’s not about us”, it’s about our client needs.  To the “outside” observer, if you are successfully “incognito”, they might perceive you as practicing “ombudsmanship” style conflict intervention techniques from a business management role for instance.  In “practical practice” this has the distinct advantage of resolving conflicts in an “undeclared informal structure” or process versus having participants become “resistant or intractable” to a formally declared intervention meeting.

The personal background to this is that I do enjoy leading from “the middle”.  In my overall business practice I am expected to provide insight, facts, data, opinions, solutions, experience, wisdom, leadership, best versus worst case scenarios and other attributes, woven and integrated into a document for decision makers.  These are always purposeful to achieve objectives and goals in my engagements and projects in collaboration with clients.  I have though, had to “watch myself” as I personally tend to “see the problem, identify the solution and then get anxious to communicate it”, which is good on one role, but NOT good in Ombudsman ADR and “self directed” negotiation and mediation scenarios.  This IS my weakness I’ve identified and have looked for the opportunity to “balance” it and get a “reign on the animal” in me about it.  Sometimes, this year, I’ve noticed I slip, but this latest opportunity I was successful at practicing it outside of a declared “informal” engagement.

I am a member of on-line communities and groups where I have relationships, collaborators, resources and friends.  Some know me personally, the vast majority only know my “handle” or pseudo ID.  In the last 2 weeks I’ve dropped in on “member posted threads” expressing dissatisfaction, dissent and discontent with a wide variety of issues from the employees boss or company, the melt down of the economy, privatization versus nationalization, to Bush vs Obama policy discussions, member “complaints” about each other and the moderator’s “failures” on the threads; and on it goes.  The moderators in this case actually “contribute” to the heated “polarization” expressing subjective opinions and clearly backed “factions” in the “thread debates” by “moderating” the “opposing opinions off the thread”, censoring speech thus resulting in “oppression and stifling” of “free speech”.  This last issue was getting very extremely heated and enraged some others to say the least.  Me, I’m not a “lurker”, but I do “practice what I preach” and never “inflame” or participate so as to polarize a discussion as a “participant” in the chaos.  For all of you out there who advocate that “conflict is good” and that it presents the opportunity to “engage” your skills, this is it, a way to “walk the talk”, apply our skills in genuine conflict, but without professional consequence.

So, I “incognito” began to step forward in the “threads” posting “neutral” statements and observations in apparent “opposition” to the moderator’s “authority”, my bad (smiles).  This really sparked them to “gang up” on me in the beginning, until I started asking them to “step back, this isn’t personal, remove their ego and subjectivity; and objectively take each ‘rule’ that posters were in violation of and apply it to ALL individuals”, equally and fairly.  I quickly looked around the “threads” and easily found dozens of violations of the posted policies, Terms of Service and “copy n’ pasted” them to the “current debate” with moderators.  This process was “openly visible” to all readers of the thread and moderators, to their credit, let the process unfold fairly without “censoring” my input.  I never disclosed my role, profession, who I am in reality.  I just saw the opportunity and began posting “points for fair and balanced analysis” for everyone, not just moderators.  Some individuals wanted to continue to “agitate” the situation, “taunted moderators”  and so I “intervened” and asked them to “self examine” their recent posts.  If someone were to say that to them using the “charged” language and tone they were projecting, “how would they take it?”.  Keep in mind here everyone was polite, there was not cussing, racism, “battle of the sexes” or other discriminatory “slanderous language” taking place.  People were focused on the points of the issues.  This is what I recognized as the “opportunity” to have good intervention, everyone was mature, it’s just they were passionate about beliefs and mostly, their favorite “political figure” over the other guys.  I participated for about 3 nights, reviewed a month of threads posts; “posted my findings” and for just over a week now, “the peace” has held.  (note: I wrote this article in late May 2009 and have held it till now to determine if the peace would hold and as of this 15th of July date it has, with only one major flare up mid June; however, this last week another “us vs. them” episode was handled with maturity, rational debate and cool emotions by dozens of individuals in the now “healthy debate” over degrees, credentialing, ethics, certification, licensing and other “regulating” practices.  Thus, it’s time to now post this as a “‘measure” of successful “ombudsmanship” methods some 10-11 weeks post intervention.)

So, I’m glad I had this chance to be “incognito” and be a “practice what I preach” Ombudsman not just in a formal role, but at all times.  In this instance I demonstrated to myself that I can  improve my ability to help others “self direct” and NOT bring my “strengths” inappropriately into a situation where it is not the ethical or best practice to “dictate the solution”.  How about you?  Are you “positioned neutrally” to get involved with or engage any social or business networks where you could practice ombudsmanship “incognito”?

Ombudsman Best Practice: Case Notes and Archiving

12 June 2009

Over the recent months I’ve read several articles and blogs addressing the issue and professional ethics of discarding case notes or preserving them as a historical record for possible future reference.  Until now I had not come to any definite conclusion on which is best, but I have now determined that I’ll let the case by case situational status guide me as to how case notes will be treated.  In my “undeclared ombudsmanship” roles there are no case notes, only the memorandums, charters or at least emails “confirming” the consensus and consent of the group or team as a result of resolving issues or conflicts.  These are “open” and transparent communications that are archived to “re-enforce” the group should things stray off track.   This article discusses an Ombudsman ADR case where the collection of ‘materials’ and statements creates a physical (scanned) and digital files folder that needs confidentiality and management contrary to transparent results that organizations may require.

In a recent business dispute I was asked to intervene as a mediating Ombudsman.  None of the parties actually met face to face, the intervention structure was “shuttle diplomacy” using on-line mediation or e-mediation.  The identified “abuses” as declared by the e-commerce web site client company were email and phone messages with “strong language” from an angry customer.  My role was to “remotely” process the complaint and collect information and get down to the root issue between an individual and company customer service employees.  In the beginning, everything did proceed normally, there was communication with me from “both sides” and a collecting of notes into a case journal with links and other email and attachments “supporting” the position of each side.  Each person completed a complaint form.  There were several rounds of discussions to be thorough and complete.  As time passed and unilateral discussion proceeded independently with each party, it became apparent to me that the person in the role of “complainant” against the company was not going to fully participate in the process.  Given my 6 C’s process, a vortex of little or no communication resulted in a lack of fulfilling the 3rd C, cooperation.  The agreement to mediate between both parties had reciprocity from only one side and for a couple of weeks I “assumed” the other would follow through on their verbal confirmation.  This never resulted in an agreement to mediate by all parties.  As “evidence” surfaced as to what the facts were regarding the complaint it didn’t “add up” either.  Pretty soon I was simply working to keep communications open and moving forward, hoping to get the last party into the mediation process, but as time passed the frequency and “desire” to continue by the complainant simply “faded away”.

Key to the process was simply confirming facts verbally with phone discussion based on other information collected.  The passage of time and “heat of the moment” seemed to change the complainant’s disposition in that I believe there was a “realization” and certain level of “embarrassment” once all of the facts were aggregated and “confirmed” during the processing of the complaint form.  In life, as I live and learn, I believe I processed and interviewed the complaint form “too deeply” prior to initiating the mediation agreement.  Initially, e-Mediation with parties has a lot of anonymity and “impersonal” facets to the interaction and these factors also “embolden” some people thinking they are out of reach of any consequences from their actions and irrational behaviors.  The tendency for people to treat others in “abusive” ways seems to be “enhanced” where there is no “personal” relationship, consequence or connection with one another.  In this scenario the “customer service” between a customer and company representatives had the usual “demands” made  by the customer with the threat of ceasing business and/or formal legal action “unless” demands are met.  Once a “third party” is called to step in and bring fairness, integrity and parity to the issue between parties… the tone changes and with the passage of time… passions subside.  In this case, the same characteristics that make the Internet truly “independent” for Ombudsman ADR are also the opposite “edge of the sword” that seems to psychologically empower the darker nature of human beings to “abuse” and “inflame” others.

This “case” never proceeded to completion, never made it past “cooperation” in the 6 C’s.  There was no acknowledged outcome or terms.  I sent “notice” to both parties that they had 30 days to decide to continue and that if they no longer desired to proceed the “case file” would be archived for future reference with no time limit.  The company contacted me by email and asserted they would continue and wanted to resolve any “real issue” if I’d found something.  I agreed and indicated that if the other party “came back to the table”, we would refresh the mediation agreement and continue.  The complainant never responded to the notice and did not communicate with me or the company during the 30 days notice.  The company would like to keep their customer and that remains to be seen now given the non-communication cycle that is persisting.

In conclusion, clearly, the collecting of facts, having information on file from both sides and “realization” by all parties that certain “abuses” were not acceptable behaviors or interactions has resulted in a “solution unto itself” so to speak.  In internal ombuds offices, a corporation for example, such “files” should be managed “off site” and on an “independent” network server from the rest of the “enterprise” I believe rather than “not kept”.  In cases where “social interactions” are not in close proximity, two “external” entities are involved, such as B2B scenarios similar to this discussion; an organizational ombudsman indepentent of both parties and locations can safely maintain and manage physical and digital files contingent upon possible future needs.