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Conflict Resolution Specialists

The Job

There are four main types of conflict resolution specialists (CRSs): arbitrators, mediators, conciliators, and ombudsmen.

Arbitrators are impartial parties who hear and decide disputes between two or more opposing parties in a non-judicial setting. They are typically retired judges, attorneys, or business professionals who have expertise in a particular field—such as finance, construction, shipping, or insurance. Others have backgrounds in engineering, scientific research and development, or health care. According to the American Arbitration Association, popular practice areas include commercial, construction, consumer, employment, government, international, and labor.

Mediators also help people and organizations resolve disputes, but unlike arbitrators, they do not render binding decisions. Instead, they work with the opposing parties to help them find common ground and come to a mutually acceptable agreement. If the parties cannot agree, they are free to move on and work with a different mediator or try another form of conflict resolution. Mediators can be generalists or specialize in fields such as labor relations, divorce, or child custody. Opposing parties often agree to work with a mediator if they believe that they are close to an agreement, but need professional assistance to complete the deal. Some courts will order mediation in small claims cases or in other situations where it appears that the parties can come to a solution for their dispute.

A conciliator is a type of mediator, but they typically meet with the parties separately and work with them to try to come to an agreement. The opposing parties must decide in advance if they will be bound by the conciliator’s recommendations.

An ombudsman is a male or female conflict resolution specialist who is hired by a company, government agency, or other organization to investigate complaints by employees or others who feel they have been wronged. After their investigation, they report on their findings and recommend how the dispute should be resolved.