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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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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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Reflections from OMV Petrom’s Ombuds Team

By Ion Anghel, Head of the Ombuds Department of OMV Petrom, Romania

Ion Anghel, Head of the Ombuds Department of OMV Petrom, RomaniaOver the last decade, I have been involved in the life of this department on a constant basis, first from the outside (as an advisor to its activities) and then from its core, as Director of this function. Looking back over time, I can say that the Ombuds’ mission here in OMV Petrom was never an easy one. This statement may surely be confirmed by all international Ombuds colleagues who have had the difficult task of launching an Ombudsman program in a company (or even more, a country) with little or no experience on this topic.

Moreover, the last years have been particularly challenging, as we have seen the whole world deal with the effects of the Covid pandemic. I think that in this new era, the importance of having somebody to talk to and address your concerns has proven to be so much more significant than before. For this reason, we have tried to stay in contact with the people in our organization even when physical presence became scarcer than before, to prevent the feeling of isolation and help build the necessary bridges to move forward. At the same time, we have had to re-invent ourselves on both a personal and professional level, as probably many of you have been required to.

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The Mirror and the Magnifying Glass

By Elaine Shaw
IOA Ombuds

The "mirror" and the "magnifying glass" are interesting metaphors for the work we do as Ombuds. We can be a mirror to our Visitors, reflecting back to them what we’ve heard them say; reframing their words and experience in a way that allows them to see differently, perhaps more clearly. Once seen, we can hold up a magnifying glass to detect and explore what’s there, bringing focus to overlooked details or the big picture. 

I’ve been thinking recently about Studs Terkel (1912-2008): writer, Radio broadcaster, and amazing listener; who famously asked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “When did this dream first come to you?” I have been thinking about Studs because, in addition to being an inspiration for helping people share their stories, he worked at my favorite Chicago radio station when I was growing up: WFMT. His job title there: Free Spirit. For those who may have visited my LinkedIn profile, you may have seen that I shamelessly stole this wonderful job title. In these last several years I have enjoyed patching together a variety of gigs as a free spirit – choosing work that is interesting and fulfilling: Community Mediator (now virtual and via text messaging!); Conference/Contract Ombuds; Yoga Leader; Book Group Facilitator; Activist; Non-profit Volunteer, Musician; workplace coach, etc., etc.

Something I have noticed in these unusual months is how difficult it is for me at this stage of life to aspire to be neutral and impartial.  Indeed, serving as the IOA Ombuds and as a Bravely Pro, I have discovered that my “go to” response can sometimes feel more like advisor than objective third party. What experience, tool, book, exercise, process, suggestion, trick, tip, shortcut, hack can I come up with to match my Visitor’s need? But what is really going on here?

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An Ombuds Journey: A magical ombuds journey

By Ion Anghel,
Director PetrOmbudsman Department, OMV Petrom

Greetings from Romania! My name is Ion Anghel and since 2018 am the head of the ombus office of OMV Petrom. Because I really believe in sharing experiences, I hope my story will inspire you. So, let’s begin…..

I'm an oil and gas engineer. I was and still am passionate about this profession and even now if I had to choose which college to attend, I would choose the same thing. I consider myself one of the lucky people who combined passion with work, and that allowed me to gain almost 33 years of experience with OMV Petrom (OMV Petrom is a Romanian integrated oil company, part of Austria's OMV company. It is one of the largest corporations in Romania and the largest oil and gas producer in Southeast Europe). I had the opportunity to go through various professional stages from executive positions to top management positions and to make some important choices in my career. 

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An Ombuds Journey: My experience in the office of a classical Ombudsman

By Abdul Hassan Sesay,

I was not the Ombudsman, but I had a passion for helping people in distress and I was able to utilize this when I worked as an investigator and later principal investigator in the office of the ombudsman Sierra Leone.

The question on how someone becomes an ombudsman varies from country to country and from organizations. With my experience in the office of a classical ombudsman, here are examples of what I found to be the process for appointment. When I visited the Justice Ombudsman’s Office in Stockholm, Sweden in 2011, I came to realize that there are two sets of ombudsmen in Sweden. The Justice Ombudsman is also called the parliamentary Ombudsman and he is elected by Parliament with a two third majority. You also have the executive ombudsman who is appointed by the prime minister. However, in most African countries the Ombudsman is appointed by the president and approved by parliament. I have not had the opportunity to work as an organizational ombudsman whose appointment might be different from those mentioned above.

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Demonstrating Value to Key Stakeholders During Times of Transition and Virtual Ombuds Offices

Image of Sana ManjeshwarImage of Elizabeth Hill

By Elizabeth Hill, Associate Director, University of Colorado Boulder Ombuds Office & Sana Manjeshwar, Global Ombuds Manager, Chevron

We hope you are all staying well and resilient during these uncertain times. Since March 2020, our ombuds community has faced unprecedented challenges and recognized a heightened need to demonstrate value to our stakeholders. This article aims to illuminate how two organizational ombuds programs, Chevron’s Global Office of Ombuds (CGOO) and the University of Colorado Boulder’s Ombuds Office (UCBOO), continue to show their value to visitors, key stakeholders, and other internal and external audiences during these transient times. While our industries may differ, we have identified three effective steps to remain visible and impactful.

 

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Surfacing Gems from the Archives of the Independent Voice

By the Editor of the Independent Voice

The Independent Voice provides a channel to communicate happenings within the IOA, as well as insights on timely topics and practice reflections from members. This year, the Independent Voice expanded access to the blog so the public can benefit from this channel as well. As the current editor of this blog, I’ve gone through the archived posts to make sure links are still live and to assess the various topics discussed throughout the years. A result of this effort allowed me to experience the great wisdom shared throughout the years related to topics of discussion in our field, pathways for professional development, and practical skills shared to build our capacity for success in our role. This post is meant to highlight some of the archived posts as a means to share the wisdom conveyed with those that may be newly accessing this blog.

A Meatball by Any Other Name (originally posted 12-14-2018)

This post touches on an issue that I’ve seen surface as of late in social media chatter. It is an introduction to a greater JIOA article on the need for reflection on the title we assign for our work in this profession. After you read through this short article, I invite you to share your thoughts and reflections on where we can bring this conversation. [READ MORE]

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One Conversation at a Time

By James Laflin and Robert Werth

This article was originally published in the 2020 XVIII edition of the Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds, (CCCUO). The article is shared in its entirety here with permission of the Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds, (CCCUO). Please check the link above to access the full archive of this beneficial journal.

The Premise

Given the times we're living through and all the voices that need to be heard, the premise of this essay is that we need to get much better at listening to those voices; everyone's.  And we need to do it now; one conversation at a time.  So, what would that look like?  Here are a few small but challenging suggestions.

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Ombuds Self-care: COVID and Beyond

By Dave Carver, PhD
IOA Board of Directors

As the COVID-19 crisis continues with no end in sight, organizational ombuds are confronted with unprecedented challenges that could lead to new opportunities for expanding our unique independent, impartial, informal, confidential role. But first we need to find ways to take care of ourselves as we look forward to a post-COVID “new normal.” Self-care can be difficult when we are isolated and spending many hours each day staring at our computer screens. Even in pre-pandemic times the ombuds role is often a lonely one, with many of us working in solo practices or communicating virtually with distant visitors. So, here are some basic tips for ombuds staying healthy in both mind and body.

  • Practice a "quiet time" stress management method of your choice for at least 20 minutes daily. Some examples of quiet time practices include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, prayer, or positive affirmations.
  • Daily physical activity can help to ease stress and brighten your mood. Weather permitting, some direct sunlight and fresh air will provide a refreshing break from long periods of online interaction.
  • Spend a few minutes each day reviewing your strengths and accomplishments, including your goals and values. Avoid perfectionistic self-criticism and comparing yourself to others negatively.
  • Make a commitment to get 7-8 hours of high quality sleep whenever possible. Make sure your sleeping room is dark, not too hot or cold, and free from unnecessary electronic distractions. Don’t sleep with your smartphone! Avoid excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption and stop working at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Stay in touch with supportive friends and family, while avoiding large crowds and shared public spaces as much as possible. Look for sources of humor in your daily life. Remember the old saying, laughter is the best medicine!
  • Spend a few minutes daily reviewing the things you have to be grateful for in your life.
  • Maintain regular contact with your ombuddies, ombuds allies, and other trusted colleagues. We need to maintain meaningful human contact, even when regular in-person meetings are not possible. And make it a point to reach out to others who appear to be struggling. We are all in this together!

In these times where stress may be high, what are some additional self-care strategies that help you cope? Please feel free to share in the comment section below.


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Surviving and Thriving

By Prof. Mary Rowe, MIT

Covid-19, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo are illuminating our world like a lightning storm. These recent events inspire renewed commitment to understanding how organizational ombuds (OOs) can survive and thrive - for our organizations, for all our constituents and for ourselves. The humble questions below evolved to contribute to a recent sector meeting. Subsequent conversations highlighted the importance of these questions for all ombuds, and also the importance of our sharing the wisdom of each of us. If any of this is useful would you consider contributing ideas? (See the last paragraph.)  

SurvivingWhat IS surviving? 

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COVID, racism and the need for safe, accessible, fair and credible conflict management systems in organizations (and communities)

By Prof. Mary Rowe, MIT

COVID-19 and the murder of Mr. George Floyd have illuminated—like a lightning storm—the need for constituents in every job classification to find safe, accessible, fair and credible ways to express concerns within their organizations and seek help. We need effective conflict management systems in organizations, and every major system needs at least one safe, independent, neutral, confidential professional as an access point. It helps if there are people of color and women who serve as safe access points to the conflict management system. In addition, every system needs competent, independent, fair, formal investigations, and investigation teams should include women and people of color, or at least regular input from diverse professionals.  

 

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Letter from the IOA President - A Call for Fairness & Justice

Dear fellow IOA members,

Over the days following the senseless killing of George Floyd, people across the world have shared an outpouring of emotion from deep sadness to intense rage as the latest in a pattern of police violence against black people. I know that many of you may be feeling frightened, sad, hopeless, or angry; I certainly am.

It is at times like this that I realize how very important our role as ombuds is to the communities we serve. As ombuds, we are called to help, to heal, to educate, and to find solutions to our visitors’ issues. Perhaps our call to help has never been more important than it is today. No one person can heal the wounds of racism or prevent them from recurring. But as ombuds, we can do our part to help people address racism and other issues of violence or exclusion. We can be a voice to address systemic issues and fair processes whether with our visitors, with each other, within our organizations, or within our communities.

I imagine that many of you are plugged into the happenings in your cities and neighborhoods and are hearing loud pleas for help and outcries for change. No doubt, you are connecting and helping where you can. I hope you also feel comfortable asking for help, especially if these events are directly impacting you. I trust that you are activating your personal support networks, and I also want to remind you that your professional network in IOA is here for you, too. Please use our online Discussion Circles and the LinkedIn Organizational Ombuds Discussion Forum to share resources and support. Utilize the IOA Ombuds Program. Plan to join a Community Connections event. Reach out to our leadership team with suggestions for resources or action.

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The Magic of Independence

By Elaine Shaw
IOA Ombuds

When my husband traveled with me to Seattle for the IOA Conference a few years ago, I made him come to the Pecha Kucha event. “Pecha-what?” he asked without much interest. For those of you who don’t know, Pecha Kucha is one of the defining institutions of the IOA annual meeting. It is a time when a few brave souls weave their work, their life, their essence into a creative expression in brief 20 slide/20 seconds per slide presentation with a spoken (or sung!) narrative. My husband was reluctant, but agreed to sit through just one. After 6 or 7 speakers, each more creative, intense or emotional than the last, he was delighted. “You work with an amazing group of people.” (Interested in the 2020 online Pecha Kucha gatherings? Learn more.)

Indeed. I do. You are an amazing group of people. That’s why it’s daunting to imagine being Ombuds for Ombuds! As the first IOA Ombuds, I take this responsibility very seriously and I hope I measure up to your expectations. I have been reflecting on why some of you may choose to be in touch.

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Article Share: Difficult Conversations, Virtually Speaking

by The Independent Voice

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read fellow IOA Member Mark Patterson’s article published via Medium.com, I encourage you to take the time to read through Difficult Conversations, Virtually Speaking when you can. The article provides strategies to help us prepare to have meaningful conversation within the virtual platforms we are now heavily experiencing. The article is not only helpful for our own practice, but is worth sharing with your constituents as they would benefit from the strategies as well.

One aspect I found meaningful speaks to the importance of check-ins at the beginning of each meeting. Our work/family domain boundaries are blurred and having time to intentionally shift from one domain to the next can help develop presence in the meeting for all. What strategies do you find helpful in this article? What other articles would you like to share as we navigate this surreal world we are experiencing?

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Virtual Meetings and the Virtual Ombudsman

By Bruce MacAllister 
IOA Board of Directors

In these strange and challenging times, many mediation and ombudsman programs are having to make the switch to working virtually with visitors using a variety of web-based and telephone-based meeting approaches.  While much of my mediation and ombuds work has been based out of “brick and mortar” programs, since 2011, much of my work has also been global and virtual. 

Making the switch from face-to-face, in-person meetings to more distant substitutes poses some challenges, but over time I have discovered some tips that seem to help close the gap between the comfort and ease of sitting down together in an informal setting to building connections with visitors and others via phone or via conferencing software.  The goal of this posting is to offer a few tips to successfully bridging the gap between the comparative ease and comfort of in-person meetings to holding those meetings from a distance.

Tips:

Tip 1: Observe ceremony.  When a visitor comes to me for an in-person meeting there are several things that are important:


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Virtual Ombudsing

by Teresa Ralicki, CO-OP®, Ombuds, University of Colorado Denver

The following is adapted from a series of articles Teresa posted on LinkedIn. We encourage you to check them out, and then visit IOA's Discussion Circles to discuss your own strategies and experiences with others learning to ombuds remotely!

Virtual Ombudsing: Tips and Considerations

My first ombuds job was at the American Red Cross. Serving visitors located all over the country, and sometimes in other parts of the world, almost all of my work was done virtually for over 5 years. Needless to say, I got pretty comfortable ombudsing from afar.

Many organizations have shifted toward remote work recently. It is always important for ombuds to remain a vital resource for their constituents, but especially so during periods of rapid change and high stress. Over this next week, I will share tips for navigating Ombuds work remotely in a four-part series:  

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Warm Thoughts from the IOA President

By Marcia Martínez-Helfman, IOA President 2018-2020

My first thought when I woke this morning was that I should be heading to the airport to fly to Portland and the IOA’s 15th Annual Conference. The Foundations Course would have already been underway.  I’d be preparing for our Board of Directors meeting on Saturday and Sunday, and excited that the Conference itself would be underway beginning Sunday night.  I will truly miss the camaraderie, learning, sharing, and just plain socializing with you all.

Today, I return to my home office aka the dining table after taking time to plot and execute a strategy for replenishing my refrigerator and pantry.  My son, recently back from London and self-isolating, stood at the curb to pick up the groceries I brought to him as I waved from my car.  These unprecedented times have touched all of us, across the globe, in small and great ways.  Too much suffering continues, and many lives continue to be lost.

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A Couple of (Un)traditional Conflict Resolving Methods

By Reese Ramos, University Ombuds at Virginia Tech, IOA Board Member

As the IOA Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon approaches, I was reminded about how Portland got its name (and no, it wasn’t named Portland because it is a port). Apparently, Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrow, who both owned the claim to the land that would become Portland, wanted to name the new town after their respective hometowns of Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine. They couldn’t agree who should name this new town, but they did agree to flip a coin. After two of three coin-toss wins took place, Portland became the town’s new name after Francis Pettygrow’s hometown. When I first heard this story, I got a kick out of it thinking about what might have happened if these two had had a facilitator. Port Boston perhaps?

And how did coin-flipping become a method for resolving conflict?

Coin flipping began eons ago and the story goes that Julius Caesar, dictator of the Roman Republic, would intervene in serious litigations and render a decision. If he was not available to arbitrate, then a flip of the coin (which contained a rendering of his head) would take place. The belief was that the gods would decide the outcome, and Caesar, in absentia, concurred with whichever party called “navia aut caput” (ship or heads). And so Portlanders, in a way, can thank Julius Caesar for creating the process that helped two landowners resolve their conflict.

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