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The Most Serious Cases Reported by Organizational Ombuds: Data from Surveys and Interviews

By Mary Rowe, Timothy Hedeen, Jennifer Schneider, and Hector Escalante,

Why are Data about the Most Serious Cases (MSC) Important to Organizational Ombuds?

MSC have several important characteristics:

1)    The most serious cases in an ombuds office entail high potential costs—and major gains or losses of possible benefits—for all constituents involved in these cases, including their organization. The value of the organizational ombuds (OO) office is sometimes very apparent, for constituents and the organization, after an OO helps to identify, assess, and help to manage a serious case.

The potential savings in emotional and material costs for the constituents involved are sometimes literally immeasurable. For the employer, savings in costs in a single high-risk case—if the case is handled effectively—may more than offset all the costs of an ombuds office. (The cost savings and benefits of dealing with MSC are sometimes especially easy to see in the first years of an OO office, if the costs of certain issues are suddenly reduced, if important good ideas flow more freely, and if systemic improvements happen more easily.)

2)    Most of an OO’s work is shrouded by the ombuds’ near-absolute commitment to confidentiality, so many people do not know what the ombuds does. But in the most serious cases, management is usually involved, and often the case is known to the various constituents who are involved and affected. The OO’s role in reducing emotional and material costs—for visitors to the office and for the employer—may be visible in the MSC.

3)    In addition to the fact that specific MSC may be known to those involved and to leadership, OOs can, relatively simply, keep and report generic, non-identifiable data about the MSC. Generic data do not identify
individuals but can reflect the seriousness of certain cases. An ombuds usually can communicate data about the issues, the complexity of the cases, how the OO first heard about the cases, and how the OO helped to get vital information where it needed to go—in ways consonant with both organizational needs and the IOA Standards of Practice.
 

The “Most Serious” Issues Reported by OOs in the 2022 IOA Survey

Sexual and racial harassment, disrespectful treatment and bullying of all kinds, retaliation, unspecified ethics issues, safety issues, potential suicidal and homicidal behavior, gross negligence, research and financial misconduct, various forms of sabotage, insider threats, national security issues, and a variety of other integrity concerns were mentioned by most OOs—along with constant concerns about actions by leadership and other managers. Some of these are rare concerns. However, allegations of identity-based disrespect and harassment, bullying, safety, and retaliation are not rare; they were among the most frequent MSC reported by OOs.





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Gratitude: One Year Anniversary of Sandia Ombuds Office Re-launch

By Ronnie Thomson,
Corporate Ombuds - Sandia National Laboratories

Have you ever felt the excitement of a new adventure plus the doubts of whether you’re ready? What is the purpose of that internal voice murmuring doubts? Perhaps it’s a catalyst to bring your best self, pursue excellence, and watch the beauty of the adventure unfold. Or maybe that catalyst is spurring you to ask for support. Upon the one-year anniversary of the Sandia Ombuds Office Re-launch, I am reflecting on my current adventure with its mountain-top highs and valley lows, plus the pursuit of excellence and the support I have found. I’m hoping that my sharing this reflection will be of help to you.

Beginning at the Trailhead 

The Sandia National Laboratories Director re-launched and chartered the Sandia Ombuds Office to again provide the workforce with an independent, informal, impartial, and confidential resource. Admirably, the Labs Director even made suggestions to strengthen the agreement before he signed it. Sandia’s Chief of Staff located options for the construction of the office in Albuquerque, NM, established the budget, and supported my launch plan which included my own orientation to a whole new world of premier research and national security with a targeted soft launch for virtual and phone visits during the pandemic. For the first few months, my husband remained in Texas as I navigated my new surroundings working at a military base for the first time in my career, having no colleagues working anywhere close to my temporary office (a bit lonely), and house shopping at the peak of a low inventory, high priced market.

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The Ombuds Journey: Tips as You Embark Upon Your Journey

By Kazmere Duffey,
Ombuds Specialist - Los Alamos National Laboratory

My name is Kazmere Duffey. I am from Long Beach, California, which is known not only for its beautiful beaches but also as one of the most diverse cities a person may live in or visit. I currently reside and work in Los Alamos, New Mexico. I am an Ombuds Specialist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

I have an AA in communications, a BS in human services, and an MA in negotiation, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding.

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IOA Lobbying Update

By Ellen Miller, IOA Executive Director


UPDATE: September 2022

IOA Lobbying Update - Title IX Comments and Upcoming Congressional Meetings

IOA filed comments with the US Department of Education on their proposed amendments to Title IX this week. Phase 2 of our advocacy efforts to advance Organizational Ombuds will begin next week when we start meeting with US federal lawmakers. IOA retained a D.C. lobbying firm to help inform our strategy. Our goal is to educate key members of the US House and Senate about Organizational Ombuds generally, the role you play in the campus security landscape, and why confidentiality is critical to your work.

Stay tuned for a briefing post-lobbying. Want to get involved in IOA’s Advocacy Committee? 




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The Organizational Ombuds Reader - Call for Nominations

By Shannon Burton, Ph.D., University Ombudsperson, Michigan State University & 
Shereen G. Bingham, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Nebraska Omaha, 

Dear Colleagues,

The IOA Research & Assessment Committee will be developing The Organizational Ombuds Reader with an anticipated publication date during 2023. This Call for Nominations has been revised in the hope of soliciting articles that fall within the scope of organizational ombuds. In the first call for nominations, we recognized that it was not specific enough to the needs of the members of the International Ombuds Association.

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5 Tips for Submitting a Successful Speaker Proposal for IOA Conference

By IOA

The Deadline to Submit for #IOA2023 Is Monday, 17 October 2022!

Female presenter speaking to a room full of conference attendees

The International Ombudsman Association warmly invites you to submit a presentation proposal or speaker suggestion for our 18th Annual Conference, Ombuds as Change Agent? ReEngaging and Transforming Conflict. Our in-person conference is scheduled for 3–5 April 2023 in Seattle, Washington, USA. 

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JIOA Call for Submissions: The Ombud’s Office and Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging

By Jennifer Swan and Shannon Burton
JIOA Special Issue Editors

Dear Colleagues,

The events of the past two years have brought issues of Social Justice front and center in the United States. Visitors bring concerns related to the complex issues of identity, marginalization, and inclusion impacting their lives in both the workplace and in the classroom. Shepherding the resulting conflicts generates challenges as ombuds strive to stay neutral while considering the impact of social justice on conflict management.

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Join a Focus Group to Help IOA Create a Code of Conduct

By Ellen Miller, Executive Director of IOA

Updated 15 August 2022

The IOA Ombuds has provided upward feedback that our organization may benefit from the creation of a code of conduct for both members and those who participate in association activities. IOA leadership has begun the process to create such a document, but we are only in the drafting stages and need your help.

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Office Openings and Expansions: Nova Southeastern University’s Halmos College of Arts and Sciences (HCAS) Announces its First Ombuds

By Neil Katz, PhD

Responding to a recommendation of the HCAS Faculty Advisory Committee, Dean Holly Lynn Baumgartner has appointed Dr. Neil Katz to serve as the first Ombuds for the faculty and staff of the Halmos College of Arts and Sciences and the Guy Harvey Oceanographic Research Center’s seven departments at Nova Southeastern University’s main campus in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Katz will initially serve collateral duties while he maintains his faculty status as a member of the graduate Department of Conflict Resolution Studies (DCRS) offering masters and doctoral degrees.  The Ombuds will be guided by the IOA standards of practice as he consults with office visitors.

Neil Katz brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the new role including 50 years as a professor at five universities, 37 years of which were with the renowned Maxwell School of Syracuse University where he initiated several conflict resolution programs, served as Director of Training for the Executive Education Program, and conducted workshops for over 10,000 supervisors, managers, union leaders, and employees. In addition, he is the author or co-author of over 60 publications including several on organizational ombuds in higher education, the 600+ page ACUS report on The Nature and Value of Ombuds in Federal Agencies (2016) and three editions of the popular book Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills, which has been in print now for 37 years.  During his professional career in academia, he has received many accolades including the Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Award from the Syracuse community for career long commitment to principles embodied in Dr. King’s life and work, the Distinguished College Professor of the Year Award at NSU, and an Award for Distinguished Service to the Field of Conflict Resolution from the Association of Conflict Resolution.

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Ombuds Day 2022 Proclamations – Call for Volunteers

By the 2022 Ombuds Day Committee

 

We need your help! Please continue reading if you are interested in supporting our “Ombuds Day 2022 Proclamation Request-a-thon” scheduled for August 8th – 12th, 2022. Volunteering for this effort is a great way to create awareness and improve understanding of the ombuds profession.  It’s also a great way to meet and connect with other ombuds across the nation.   If you’re interested and short on time, you can skip to the bold text below.

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Announcing the DEIB Framework

By the IOA Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Committee 

In July 2020, in alignment with Goal 4 of IOA's Strategic Plan, "IOA has a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and engagement," the IOA Board of Directors established a DEIB Task Force. In July 2021, the Task Force broadened its focus and became IOA’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Committee

The DEIB Committee has worked diligently since its inception and we are now pleased to announce a framework designed to guide the IOA toward a more inclusive organization. The framework was voted on and approved by the IOA Board of Directors on 1 June 2022.

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COFO 2022 Annual Conference: Call for Presentations

By Paul Sotoudeh, Chief Ombudsman, USPTO Office of the Ombudsman

The Coalition of Federal Ombudsman (COFO) is pleased to announce that it is now accepting proposals to present at its 2022 Annual Conference on 14 October 2022. As with the COFO Annual Conferences in 2020 and 2021, presenters may present virtually, but COFO hopes to run the conference as a hybrid, with in-person attendance in Alexandria, VA.

Therefore, we are soliciting proposals for both virtual and in-person presentations, with a possibility of a pivot to all-virtual.

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Joint IOA/CO-OP Accreditation Task Force Update - Member Input Requested

By Sue Diviney, Co-Chair, Joint IOA/CO-OP® Accreditation Task Force

In May 2022, IOA announced a Joint IOA/CO-OP® Accreditation Task Force had been formed to advance IOA’s Strategic Direction, specifically, Goal 1.4: Develop a program for accreditation of ombuds offices that are structured to comply with IOA and Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

The purpose of the Task Force is to explore the creation of an office accreditation program that will pave the way for refocusing the CO-OP® designation to certify the knowledge, skills, and experience of individuals and remove program requirements from certification. Thus, the group is charged with developing a proposal to accredit programs separately from individual certifications.

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18th Annual IOA Conference Updates

By the IOA Conference Committee & IOA Board of Directors

The IOA Conference Committee is hard at work planning the 18th Annual IOA Conference, in person in Seattle, WA, USA, 3–5 April 2023. It has been brought to our attention that the event dates run over or are adjacent to a number of major religious holidays including Ramadan, Palm Sunday, and Passover. As an organization that honors diversity and inclusivity, the Conference Committee, staff, and the Board are taking this issue seriously and considering the potential impacts on members as we begin planning the schedule for the Conference. We deeply apologize for the overlap this year and we will work to ensure that the planning allows attendees time to observe religious activities.

We have already explored whether the hotel is able to move our date; unfortunately, the hotel is unable to accommodate us. As you may know, the IOA Annual Conference has typically been held in April with the actual dates dependent upon many factors such as hotel availability and pricing. The contracts for the Annual Conference are typically signed two to three years ahead and changing those contracts is exceptionally difficult under normal circumstances. Because we had to cancel and move hotel contracts in 2020, 2021, and 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had very limited options for the 2023 Conference.

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IOA Welcomes a New Ombuds

By Breanne Taylor

Breanne TaylorHello IOA! My name is Breanne Taylor and I am very excited to be serving as the next IOA Ombuds. I have been a member of IOA for almost 10 years and currently serve as the Associate Ombuds at Oregon State University. I am excited to be serving in this role for many reasons but primarily it is the opportunity to work with ombuds across many different sectors, experience levels, and locations that led me to pursue this role. To be in a position to support my fellow ombuds, as they serve their constituents and continue to grow and hone their own abilities within this field, is incredibly energizing.

I want to acknowledge Elaine Shaw, CO-OP®  for all her hard work as the inaugural IOA Ombuds and for the excellent foundation she established for the office. I am excited and eager to be part of its continued success in supporting this community as we adapt to new and perpetual changes. I also want to express my gratitude to Elaine for her warm welcome and guidance as I transition into this role.

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There's Nothing New About the 'New Normal' – Or Is There?

By Doriana Vintilă
Ombuds
PetrOmbudsman Department, OMV Petrom S.A.

Dear colleagues,

During the pandemic period, many organizations were surprised at how quickly their employees adapted to doing their jobs remotely. Psychologists told us that compared to other changes, this one was more easily accepted as it happened under a threat – that of an unknow virus we all needed to hide from.

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IOA Committee Updates July 2022

By IOA

At each IOA Board of Directors Meetings, our association's Committees submit a report about the progress they are making on their latest projects. Each Committee and Task Force has been hard at work supporting our members and helping to advance the organizational ombuds profession.  Please take a moment to read the latest updates from the last couple of Board Meetings.


Conference Committee, June 2022

Conference Committee is beginning the planning process for #IOA2023 in Seattle and would like your input. We are seeking to build upon lessons learned from our virtual experiences in 2021 and 2022 while creating a true feeling of belonging and reintegration from our long separations. If you would like to work with our team, please complete the Volunteer Interest Form with the Volunteer Coordination Committee or contact the Conference Committee co-chairs, Katie Manderson and Bina Patel.

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US Title IX June 2022 Update

By Ellen Miller, IOA Executive Director

On June 23, the US Department of Education issued proposed revisions to US Title IX. Once the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking has been issued in the US Federal Register, all stakeholders will have 60 days to comment. 

Per the press release, the proposed new regulations would:

  • Clearly protect students and employees from all forms of sex discrimination.

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New IOA Standards of Practice & Code of Ethics

Updated Board-Approved Documents Now Available

By IOA

We are pleased to announce that the IOA Board of Directors approved the final, revised Standards of Practice (SOP) and Code of Ethics (COE) at its meeting on 17 March 2022. The new documents are now in effect and are available for download on the IOA website. Current SOP & COE translations include, Amharic, Chinese, French, French Canadian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Latin American Spanish, and Thai. If you would like to suggest another language to add to our translation list, please email the IOA office at [email protected].

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2022 Ombuds Day Announcement

By Ryan Smith, Ed.D., Assistant University Ombudsperson, Office of the University Ombudsperson, Michigan State University

 

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