Friday, July 13

Do you need to "like" your client to do a good job?

Yeah for sure, it's a curly one and it's posed by Dan Hull over at WAC? yesterday - Do you need to "like" your client to do a good job?

His answer does not disappoint: "In our firm, the answer is absolutely yes. Color us spoiled, and even unlawyer-like--but we refuse to represent clients we do not like and respect. Screw the money. We'd rather sell women's shoes, be full-time lobbyists, or take up careers as street people..."

Hmmm, I get that the roles of attorney and neutral are poles apart but it's a question we should ask ourselves as mediators - do we need to like the parties to do a good job at the table?

If we find we do not like a party, should we decline to continue? If we don't like them, how can we give them the service they deserve?

Disclosure my dear blahblah reader; this mediator got into a wee bit of hot water a while back when a party felt the vibe was not quite right and through his counsel, unexpectedly called that elephant in the room.

He was quite correct though, I thought his client was an A1 jerk - just didn't like him, nothing I could put my finger on - just not my type - and I don't like the whole passive/aggressive thing, but that's another post.

We got over it and we got to Yes, but it was unpleasant.

Turning it around, I am convinced I do a better job for people I like - people I connect with - people whose values I can share. But does that mean we can't mediate for people we don't like?

Let me leave it there to see if anyone picks this up.

Meantime, take a peek at David Maister's What We Hate About Those People - it deals with the interpersonal relations between professionals and their clients.


Anonymous said...

I believe as a neutral or impartial professional mediator, the dynamics of conflict are fluid and the same applies to the clients. Sometimes I like one over the other and then it changes, however it is my role as mediator to not influence the process with my own "stuff" and that is the challenge. I believe if your own feelings and dislikes/likes get in the way of creating understanding by the parties, then there is a need to withdraw.

Victoria Pynchon, said...

Ken Cloke taught me to find something of myself in everyone for whom I am mediating. If that something is something I DISLIKE in myself, then at least I recognize where the dislike is REALLY coming from. This always puts me back in a neutral place. It is humbling. And I think humility is vastly underrated in all professions and an absolute necessity for a mediator. personally struggle both to be sufficiently self-regarding to respect my instincts and sufficiently humble to question my judgment. None of this is easy (particularly the part where I LISTEN WAY MORE than I opine) but it is what makes mediating so rewarding.

Gary said...

There are three areas I have to concern myself with in a mediation. One is process, next is content and next is personality. I have to be alive to problems in any one of these areas that might be inhibiting the parties ability to solve the problems and find solutions or help the parties find solutions. If I see a personality issue is getting in the way of the parties moving forward I need to find a way past that personality issue. My feelings toward the personality issue are not relevant, only getting the parties past the problem is relevant. If it is somethng that is not in the way of the parties moving forward but is my judgement on another persons personality then that is irrelevant to what I am doing. I just put that aside knowing that shortly I will be able to send that person home to their mother who loves them, I think, maybe.

Geoff Sharp said...

Great comments all. Reminded me its not about me.