AN INTRODUCTION to OMBUDSING INFORMAL, CONFIDENTIAL, PROBLEM RESOLUTION An Ombudsperson is guided by cornerstone principles: INDEPENDENCE INFORMALITY IMPARTIALITY (OR NEUTRALITY) CONFIDENTIALITY INDEPENDENCE •An ombuds is not part of line management, does not make management decisions, and cannot compel anyone to take any particular course of action. •In order to preserve independence, the ombuds cannot be considered a place where “notice” of improper activities can be given to the institution. •In order to assure independence, the ombuds typically reports to the head of the organization and does not take on other roles that might compromise, or appear to compromise, independence. INFORMALITY •Ombuds encourage people to resolve problems at the lowest effective level, before they escalate. •If informal resolution is unsuccessful, and the problem moves into a formal arena, an ombuds’ involvement ceases. •An ombuds does not participate in formal processes, even if given permission to do so. IMPARTIALITY •The ombuds does not advocate for the employee or student, or anyone else. •As a designated neutral, the ombuds helps people to gain perspective on situations so they can make better- informed choices as to how to proceed. •This often entails helping visitors gain access to relevant information as well as opening avenues of communication. •The facilitation of constructive communication, whether through informal mediation, facilitation, or “shuttle diplomacy,” is a key aspect of impartiality. •Conversely, ombuds do not negotiate on someone’s behalf, pressing for a particular outcome or course of action, nor do they render decisions. CONFIDENTIALITY •Confidentiality is essential to what makes the ombuds office a safe place for people to bring their concerns, open their minds, and explore potential courses of action. •The only instance in which an ombuds would breach confidentiality is if he or she believes that doing so is necessary to address an imminent threat of serious harm. •Because of the expectation of confidentiality, the ombuds cannot serve as an “office of record” or an “office of notice” to the institution. •Confidentiality belongs to the ombuds, not to those providing information to the ombuds. •Even if a visitor were to given an ombuds permission to discuss a situation, the ombuds might not do so in the belief that such a move might violate another ombuds principle (i.e., not participating in formal arenas). •Confidentiality is one of the ombuds’ most valuable tools. For this reason, ombuds are working to develop explicit federal “shield” legislation. A DISTINCTIVE ROLE •Unlike HR professionals, ombuds do not develop policies or procedures, impart authoritative interpretations of, or defend or enforce them; or participate in formal arenas. •Ombuds do not interpret agreements or advocate on behalf of individuals. •While EAP professionals focus on psycho-social assessment and referral or coping with problems outside the workplace, ombuds concentrate on practical, constructive methods for addressing workplace conflicts. •Ombuds encourage people to report wrongdoing, help them learn about and gain access to their rights, and assist them in finding safe ways to come forward. •Central to the role of ombuds is the function of coaching. •Coaching helps people discern what they actually want (their underlying “interests”) as opposed to their initial “positions.” •Coaching allows them to explore potential avenues for addressing those interests. •The coaching process includes “reality checks,” which help people determine what is, or is not, reasonably attainable, and the possible costs and advantages of each option. Such one-on-one counseling is the core of ombudsing. Other services radiate from that core. INTEREST-BASED APPROACHES TO CONFLICT RESOLUTION Move to settlement move from past to present to future Brainstorm options – intervention Issues and interests – reflective listening clarify issues and common interests Establish trust – foundation a positive tone Intake – Scope of Services and Expectations FUNCTIONS AND SKILLS • LISTEN, while being • PROVIDE resources for respectful information on procedures, policies and regulations • IDENTIFY alternatives and generate options • PROVIDE feedback on trends, issues, policies and • OFFER neutral practices without breaching perspectives confidentiality • FACILITATE • PROVIDE problem solving communication between skills to members of the aggrieved members of the University community so University community they can express their • REFER people to those on concerns effectively to campus who are able to others help resolve their problems AN OMBUDS CANNOT • Advocate for a person • Act as an office of legal notice to the university • Arbitrate that a problem exists • Promise confidentiality • Testify in formal if there is an imminent proceedings, including risk of serious harm legal proceedings • Deter a person from pursuing relief through any formal process OMBUDS MEDIATION • An informal process and • A formal, structured process great way to prevent and great way to facilitate disputes, where possible, or the resolution of a dispute facilitate problem-resolution • Mediation is one of many • Mediator restricted in role tools • Can work with one, both or • Both sides must be present all parties • Can help find the best • Process is defined process or options • Keeps no case records • May keep case records “Early” Courts Agencies Dispute Laws ADR: Mediation Resolution Arbitration Mini-trials Within the Organization: Open Door Policy Internal Support, HR and Mediation Teams OMBUDS: The one you go to when you need help to work it out yourself – to refer you, link you up, or coach for self-help. Value = Worth Economic Humanistic Management time Time Morale Productivity Trust Reputation Creativity Recruitment and retention Someone to Listen Reduced formal processes Educational Reduced litigation Collegiality Time = Money Ombuds’ effort number and time spent on phone calls, number and time spent in meetings, time spent in research, fact-finding Methods employed consulting, discussion, facilitation, ombuds’ mediation, “looking into,” shuttle diplomacy, referral, training, information sharing Outcomes Individual impacts (retention, envalument) Case impact (formality averted, individual changes) Collateral impacts (others involved, improved) Environmental system impacts (institutional changes, reputation enhancement/protection, etc.) Additional Value Contributions Ombuds handle issues no one else does. Less likelihood of issues being “stranded.” Stranded issues seem to mutate! Ombuds Enhance Other Programs. More “right” issues quickly navigated to the best resource means those programs return more value. Ombuds Add Educational Value. Ombuds coaching and tools used – interest based negotiation, active listening, etc. – teaches users better communication, conflict management techniques, and interpersonal skills. Conservative Assumptions • A case filed with a federal or state agency has a nuisance value of $25,000. • The Ombuds Program is able to prevent at least one meritorious case from going to a government agency or court. • Every meritorious case cost $50,000 in legal fees (win or lose) excluding settlements and damages. • Half of all issues resolved through Ombuds without senior management involvement. THE VALUE OF OMBUDS • Early-warning system on the need for systemic change. • By adhering to the principles of independence, impartiality, and confidentiality, we have created a safe place where people feel comfortable telling us what really is going on. • Ear of the organization. People often leave our office saying that this was the first time they truly felt heard. • Our next task is to help people sort through what actually is going on and what outcome they really want. This entails disentwining many threads that the person may have tangled into one seemingly insurmountable problem. • We help people identify the threads, sort them into categories, and then explore options for satisfactory resolution of each concern. • Once it is determined what is really wanted, priorities are identified and possible courses of action are explored. Bibliography Wesley, Margo, California Public Employee Relations Journal,The Compleat Ombuds: A Spectrum of Resolution Services, Issue 166, June 2004. Special thanks to Margo Wesley, Ombudsperson and Director of the Staff Ombuds Office at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California for permission to use The Compleat Ombuds as the basis for this presentation. This presentation is reprinted with permission from CPER No. 166 (June 2004). Copyright by the Regents, University of California. The California Public Employee Relations Program provides nonpartisan information to those involved in employer-employee relations in the public sector.
Pages to are hidden for
"Intro to Ombudsing"Please download to view full document