Responsibilities and Duties

An ombuds is defined as: “a designated neutral who is appointed or employed by an organization to facilitate the informal resolution of concerns of employees, managers, students and, sometimes, external clients of the organization” (International Ombuds Association). The primary duties of an ombuds are (1) to work with individuals and groups in an organization to explore and assist them in determining options to help resolve conflicts, problematic issues or concerns, and (2) to bring systemic concerns to the attention of the organization for resolution.  An ombuds operates in a manner to preserve the confidentiality of those seeking services, maintains a neutral/impartial position with respect to the concerns raised, works at an informal level of the organizational system, and is independent of formal organizational structures. 

Activities and functions most frequently undertaken by an employee ombuds include, but are not limited to:

  • Listens and understands issues while remaining neutral with respect to the facts. The employee ombuds doesn’t listen to judge or to decide who is right or wrong. The employee ombuds listens to understand the issue from the perspective of the individual. This is a critical step in developing options for resolution.
  • Assists in reframing issues and developing and helping individuals evaluate options. This helps individuals identify the interests of various parties to the issues and helps focus efforts on potential options to meet those interests.
  • Guides or coaches individuals to deal directly with other parties, including the use of formal resolution resources of the organization. An employee ombuds often seeks to help individuals improve their skill and their confidence in giving voice to their concerns directly.
  • Refers individuals to appropriate resolution resources. An employee ombuds may refer individuals to one or more formal organizational resources that can potentially resolve the issue.
  • Assists in surfacing issues to formal resolution channels. When an individual is unable or unwilling to surface a concern directly, the employee ombuds can assist by helping give voice to the concern and /or creating an awareness of the issue among appropriate decision-makers in the organization.
  • Facilitates informal resolution processes. An employee ombuds may help to resolve issues between parties through various types of informal mediation.
  • Identifies new issues and opportunities for systemic change for the organization. The unique positioning of the employee ombuds serves to provide unfiltered information that can produce insight to issues and resolutions. The employee ombuds is a source of detection and early warning of new issues and a source of suggestions of systemic change to improve existing processes.

This position supplements, but does not replace, the university’s existing resources for conflict resolution. Serving as a designated neutral, the employee ombuds is not an advocate for any individual or for the University, but rather acts as an advocate for fairness and healthy campus conflict resolution. The employee ombuds does not have the power to make any decisions as to ultimate resolution, nor does the employee ombuds have the power to reverse any decision made or actions taken by the regularly constituted university authorities. 

The employee ombuds does not:

  • Advocate for individuals/take sides
  • Create or maintain records for the organization
  • Provide legal advice
  • Participate in formal investigation or play any role in a formal issue resolution
  • Serve in any other organizational role that would compromise neutrality of the role
  • Receive notice for the organization
  • Share personally identifiable information without permission
  • Make binding decisions or mandate policies
  • Conduct formal investigations or write formal investigative reports
  • Keep confidential any imminent risk of serious harm or danger as required by law

Page last modified April 23, 2021