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A Note About Mistreatment and Organizational Protective Factors

By Mary Rowe,

I am writing a note after listening to a number of Organizational Ombuds (OOs) these past few months. Several OOs report cases characterized by verbal attacks that seem unusual: employees who intimidatingly refuse an order, unafraid of being accused of insubordination. Undergraduates who loudly and insultingly reject faculty rights to set the requirements and rules in a college classroom. Students who insult the race or religion or ethnicity of staff and faculty and visitors to their school. Senior managers who loudly express bitter hate for each other. Visitors who insult their ombuds and their organization for having an ombuds. Bullying that is ratcheting up to being totally unacceptable.

Several OOs have noted that the nation is losing many professionals, for example those who no longer wish to serve as teachers, nurses, doctors and other caretakers. 

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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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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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Call for Articles: Just Resolutions - ABA e-newsletter

By Shannon Lynn Burton, Ph.D., University Ombudsperson, Michigan State University

Dear Ombuds Colleagues,

I am writing to solicit articles for the September 2022 Just Resolutions e-newsletter.  This edition centers on the work of ombuds and it would be wonderful if we had a number of individuals interested in writing!

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OmbudsLinked - An Independent Channel for Ombuds Engagement

By Elizabeth Hill, J.D., CO-OP®
Associate Director, Ombuds Office at the University of Colorado Boulder

Greetings! In October 2021, Caroline Adams, Jenn Mahony, and I established a LinkedIn Discussion Group called OmbudsLinked. It is an independent forum, not affiliated with any of the ombuds associations. The purpose is to create space for all types of practicing ombuds regardless of model, sector, standards of practice, etc. to congregate, network, share information and ideas, build camaraderie, and unite the profession. It is also a closed group, which will hopefully allow members to speak freely without judgment or scrutiny of individuals outside the ombuds profession. Accordingly, members must be invited by a member or request to join. The group administrators monitor the requests to join.


What does the engagement look like?

Each week the administrators, Caroline Adams, Rob Behrens, Elizabeth Hill, and Jennifer Mahony, offer the following:

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Deliberating Dilemmas: Coverage of Services in the Face of a Conflict of Interest

By Bryan Hanson, EdD

Ombudsperson, Graduate School at Virginia Tech
Independent Voice Blog Editor

What should a single-person ombuds office do when a member of their community contacts the ombuds office about a matter, but the ombuds determines that they have a conflict of interest in working with that individual? 

An inquiry of just this type was recently raised with the IOA by an individual that encountered that situation with their ombuds. In this case, the ombuds told the individual that they could not provide assistance to them. The Ombuds apparently did not explain the basis for the conflict of interest nor suggested any other means to provide assistance to the individual who considered themselves one of the constituents served by the ombuds office. The individual contacted IOA because they thought that the ombuds may have acted improperly and wanted to raise the issue with the IOA. Since the ombuds involved in this situation is not COOP certified and there is no relevant procedure for investigating the conduct of non-certified IOA members, it was established there is no basis for the IOA to become involved. 

The dilemma presented in this case surely is not unique. While it is likely not appropriate in most situations to disclose to an individual the basis for the conflict of interest, is there nothing that the ombuds can do to help an individual receive assistance? Because this may be a recurring problem for single-person ombuds offices, we thought we would offer a suggestion here that an ombuds may want to consider and invite IOA members to suggest other possible options. 

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2021 IOA Member Updates

By IOA

We would like to thank IOA's  1,000+ members for participating in our organization in 2021. Members' support and investment in the association help us continue striving toward our mission to advance the organizational ombuds profession worldwide.

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Mary Rowe Provides Access to Wealth of Digital Resources

This week brings forward our need to reflect on those things we are grateful for in our lives. As I reflect on what I am grateful for in my professional capacity, I would like to extend gratitude for all of those that helped shape the ombuds profession and contributed to the development of skills to help fulfill this role. Specifically, I am thankful to Mary Rowe for her work over the years and for taking on the effort to digitize and provide access to her professional papers.

You can now review the archives of her papers in an easy to search database created by the MIT library.

The digital collection is available here:

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CO-OP® Inactive Status Update

One-Time CO-OP® Amnesty Program
Apply for Inactive Status Today


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ABA’s Just Resolutions e-newsletter is Looking for Articles on the Work of Ombuds

By Shannon Burton, PhD. 

University Ombudsperson | Michigan State University
Editor | ABA Just Resolutions September 2021

Dear Ombuds Colleagues,

I am writing to solicit articles for the September 2021 Just Resolutions e-newsletter.  This edition centers on the work of ombuds and it would be wonderful if we had a number of individuals interested in writing!


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Update and Request for the Ombuds Effectiveness Project

By Jennifer Mahony
Associate Ombudsman, NIH

Jen MahonyWhat are the mechanisms you use to create meaningful insight for your organizations?  How do you show that your ombuds office is valuable and effective? What frameworks are you using with your organization to define effectiveness?

In a recent blog post, Hector Escalante discussed The Ombuds Effectiveness Project as well as the work of Goal #1. Chuck Howard, IOA’s Executive Director, formed a project team led by Randy Williams and Ronnie Thomson to address these key questions. The Ombuds Effectiveness Project’s mission is “to equip ombuds offices with guidance, research tools, and training to measure and present effectiveness of their programs relevant to the stakeholder’s goals, in alignment with their organization's mission and values”.

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What to do When Abrasive Behavior Enters your Organization

by Mark Batson Baril, Resologics

In my work as an Ombudsman and conflict resolver I have encountered thirteen situations to date that have involved a leader with an abrasive leadership style. It’s been hard for me to admit, but it took eight of those cases over several years before I really understood what was going on — and what to do about it. In most of those eight cases the teams and organizations worked toward agreements that more or less stuck and the team’s performance improved. Yet, remaining underneath those changes was the abrasive behavior of the leader/individual that had not been addressed in a substantial way.

If this type of behavior exists in the organization we are working with and we have not been able to support the organization in working through it, we are merely enabling a patch to the problem and are not dealing with the underlying system at play. Eventually the negative outcomes from the abrasive behavior will negate any team improvements and come back to damage the workplace and, importantly, the people involved.

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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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IOA Ombuds Office Effectiveness Project

By Hector Escalante, Ed.D, MFA
Ombudsperson - Pacific University

What are the top suggestions ombuds can use to show value to leadership? What tools can they use to make a case that their office deserves to exist? Recently, Chuck Howard, IOA’s Executive Director formed a team led by Randy Williams and Ronnie Thompson to address these key questions. The Ombuds Effectiveness Project’s mission is “to equip ombuds offices with guidance, research tools, and training to measure and present effectiveness of their programs relevant to the stakeholder’s goals, in alignment with their organization's mission and values”.

In today’s uncertain and unstable environment, this mission is critically important for ombuds offices. Many ombuds offices may be at risk for closure. I recently experienced the possibility of my office being closed because of new leadership and extreme budget cuts. Fortunately, with the help of IOA, close ombuds colleagues and my university stakeholders, I was strategically able to convince our new leader that the ombuds role brings tremendous value to him as a leader and to the greater university community.

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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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Centering ourselves in community: Is it time for ombuds to embrace restorative approaches to our work?

By Ryan Smith
Assistant University Ombudsperson, Michigan State University

I started jotting down some notes for this post a few months ago, before the world was turned upside down. The changes and disruptions brought about by COVID 19, the murder of George Floyd, the subsequent protests, and debate around police reform have fundamentally changed the society in which we live. Many of us are waking up to a reality that others among us have been aware of for quite some time, that the old ways of doing things are often rooted in systems of oppression and inequality, and now is the time to reconsider what, how, and why we do many things that we have likely taken for granted. While the public debate around policing continues, we also need to look inward and consider the roles that we as ombuds play in our communities and organizations.

When I tell people that I am an ombuds, this is almost always followed by a puzzled expression and the question “what’s that?” My short answer to this question is that an organizational ombuds helps people navigate conflict with and within an organization. In beginning my post with this, I am providing a simple definition of our work. Conflict resolution work is complex and multifaceted, and ombudsmanry is just one way to approach it. One important constant, something that I must remind myself regularly in my work, is that the overriding value in conflict resolution work is in relationships and human connection. If these things weren’t important to us, we would have no need for conflict resolution work. Human relationships and connections, then, are essentially at the heart of the work we do.

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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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IOA Guidance Concerning COVID-19 and Contact Tracing

By Chuck Howard

Executive Director of IOA

Should an ombuds consider breaking confidence if the ombuds learns that someone has been diagnosed as positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to COVID-19 yet refuses to take action to protect others from further infection?

How might contact tracing affect ombuds’ confidentiality obligations and operational practices if either the ombuds or a visitor develops COVID-19?

These and similar questions have been raised with a request that IOA provide some guidance to IOA members on the implications of COVID-19 and contact tracing on their practices. As restrictions are being lifted and ombuds face the possibility of returning to their workplace offices and meeting with visitors in person, these questions take on added urgency and importance. In an effort to provide guidance to assist IOA members, IOA’s Executive Director prepared a memorandum with important information and recommendations on how ombuds might analyze these issues. You may access this important resource via this link:

COVID-19 IOA Memorandum

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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