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Learn More About Ombuds Services

Ombuds Frequently Asked Questions


What is the difference between an HR Professional and an Ombuds?

An Ombuds provides a complementary, but distinct, function to HR. Many employees do not report workplace concerns to HR or their manager for fear of retaliation. As a result, problems cannot be addressed early and at a lower level because they are not known. By the time an employee files a formal complaint with HR, the situation is often more entrenched and complex. When workplace concerns are not addressed early, they can lead to low morale, poor communication, distrust, a toxic work environment, decreased productivity, and turnover.

The Ombuds is often the first person approached by a concerned employee or manager for difficult problems. Ombuds are independent of the organization’s leadership. An Ombuds is not an advocate for employees or managers, but an advocate for fair processes. Ombuds empower employees and organizations to engage proactively in constructive problem-solving. The Ombuds is in a unique position to address conflicts early and at the lowest level, improve working relationships, and support a positive workplace culture.


What does Ombuds Services include?

  • Listening to workplace concerns of employees and management;
  • Opening lines of communication;
  • Helping to identify and evaluate options to reach interest-based solutions;
  • While protecting confidentiality, providing employees and managers with vital information about the organization’s policies and rules;
  • When appropriate, triaging the situation to assist participants in finding other resources that may assist them in resolving the matter at hand; and
  • Offering informal intervention upon request through shuttle diplomacy, facilitation, or other appropriate processes.

Ombuds services present an alternative to formal dispute resolution channels, supplementing them, but not replacing them.


What are the benefits of Ombuds Services?

  • Provide a safe place for employees to discuss concerns and to understand their options without fear of retaliation;
  • Empower employees and managers to address workplace concerns constructively;
  • Facilitate two-way, informal communication, and dispute resolution to resolve difficult workplace issues that could otherwise escalate into time consuming and expensive formal complaints or lawsuits;
  • Support employee satisfaction, morale, and retention by humanizing the organization through the establishment of a resource that provides safe and informal opportunities to voice concerns; and
  • Serve as a central information and referral resource for policies, processes, and resources within the organization.


What are the key principles of Ombuds Services?

An Ombuds is an impartial resource who does not take sides or serve as an advocate for managers or employees. The Ombuds is an advocate for due process and a fair solution.

Communications with an Ombuds are confidential. When someone provides information to the Ombuds, that information is not disclosed to anyone else without permission from the person providing such information. The only exception to this principle of confidentiality is where there appears to be an imminent risk of serious harm.

The Ombuds is independent of any employee or any person, office, or department in the organization. This allows employees and managers to come to the Ombuds and express concerns without fear of retaliation.

The Ombuds is focused on resolving disputes early and at the lowest possible level in a manner that preserves good working relationships. Contacting the Ombuds is not the same as “reporting” the matter to the organization and does not put the organization “on notice.” The Ombuds does not make decisions, process complaints, conduct formal investigations, keep records for the organization, or serve as a witness in any administrative or legal proceedings.


What to expect during a meeting with an Ombuds?

An Ombuds provides a confidential and safe space for discussion about sensitive and difficult workplace concerns. An Ombuds will listen, help evaluate the situation, and discuss needs and objectives. The Ombuds can then assist in exploring options for resolution.

Often, the expressed concerns can be resolved without needing further involvement from the Ombuds.

Alternatively, the Ombuds may remain engaged to assist as requested and as circumstances require.


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