Why Should My Organization Have an Ombuds?

The Value of the Organizational Ombuds Role

Whether you are in a higher ed, corporate, government, NGO/association, K-12 or research setting, adding an organizational ombuds is a proven and effective way to: 

  • Build and improve workplace culture

  • Support employees and other stakeholders 

  • Provide an informal and confidential space to identify and address issues 

  • Support DEIB efforts including racial and social injustice 

  • Support those impacted by harassment 

  • Prevent bias and harassment issues from escalating 

  • Reduce complaint investigation time

  • Reduce litigation costs 

  • Reduce employment litigation insurance premiums.  

  • Improve governance 

  • Address interpersonal and group conflict 

  • Uncover and address systemic issues to create healthier organizations, and 

  • A myriad of other concerns

Below are several resources to help you learn more.  Whether you are in the C-suite or hold another leadership position in your organization, serve on a Board of Trustees or Directors, or are a lawyer advising organizations or shareholders, the International Ombuds Association is here to help you get started. Contact our Executive Director, Ellen Miller at [email protected] to set up an appointment.    

Resources about Organizational Ombuds


Modern Ombuds Toolkit

International Ombuds Association:  What are the benefits of an Ombuds Office?   

International Ombuds Association: How Does an Ombuds Fit into an Organization?

International Ombuds Association: Ombuds General Introduction (A set of PowerPoint slides designed to introduce a general audience to the ombuds role.)

Miller, E. (2022) Is it Time to Call the Ombuds?  How Organization Ombuds Help Increasingly Complex Organizations,  International Ombuds Association

Rowe, M.,  Hedeen, T, Schneider, J and Escalante, E. (2022) The Most Serious Cases Reported by Organizational Ombuds: Data from Surveys and Interviews, International Ombuds Association 

Howard, C. (2022) A Practical Guide to Organizational Ombuds: How They Help People and Organizations, American Bar Association 

Howard, C. (2020) What Happens When an Employee Calls the Ombudsman? Harvard Business Review

Bonnivier, B.M, Brooke-Lander M.C. and Lewis M.R. (2020) The Organizational Ombuds Office and Corporate Social Responsibility: Driving Values in an Organization.Society of Petroleum Engineers

Dean, A. and Fong, S. (2017) One clear way wise companies can avoid Uber’s big mistake, Medium.com 

Barka, J., (2015) Blueprint for Success: Designing a  Proactive Organizational Ombudsman Program, Journal of the International Ombudsman Association

Deyo, S., and Jessar, K.(2015) Applying the Ombuds Role to Your Organization, American Bar Association, Section of Labor and Employment Law 

Gadlin, H. and Rowe, M. (2014) The Organizational Ombudsman, The Oxford Handbook of Conflict Management in Organizations (Chapter 10, pp. 210–232). Oxford University Press. 

McBride J. and Norman, S. (2011) Time for an Ombudsman?  Corporate Secretary Magazine 

Holmes, M. (2012),  A Fresh Look at the Organizational Ombudsman, SWE, Magazine of the Society of Women Engineers 

McBride, J. and Hostetler, J. (2008) Board Champions for the Ombudsman, Directors Monthy, National Association of Corporate Directors 

Rowe, M. (2008) An Organizational Ombuds Office in a System for Dealing with Conflict and Learning from Conflict, or “Conflict Management System”

Rowe, M and Hicks, W. (2004) The Organizational Ombuds, from Resource Book for Managing Employment Disputes , CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution, Inc. 

Hirschman, C. (2003), Someone to Listen, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) HR Magazine, Vol. 48. No. 1 

Rowe, M. (2001) Effectiveness of Organizational Ombudsmen from The Ombudsman Association Handbook (courtesy of Mary Rowe) 

Manjeshwar, S. (2023), Changemakers: How Chevron Empowers its Workers to Self-Advocate, Jobs for the Future 



Hirsch, A. (2022) Alternative Complaint Systems for Harassment and Discrimination Disputes, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 

Dobbin, F. and Kalev, A. (2020) Why Sexual Harassment Programs Backfire And what to do about it, Harvard Business Review 

Yang, J and Katz, B. (2020) Promising Practices for Addressing Harassment in the STEM Workplace: How to Lead in Today's Environment, Urban Institute 

Howard, C. (2019), Avoid Being a Whistleblower With Safe Place Ombudsman Programs, Bloomberg Law 

Parker, T. (2018) To Avoid Harassment, Try an Ombudsman, Chief Executive Group 

International Ombuds Association: Surfacing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct Organizational ombuds as a resource for surfacing and addressing sexual misconduct in the workplace.

(2018) Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) 

Eisner, M. (2007) Creation of an Ombuds Office Can Prevent Retaliation Claims, Mediate.com 

Henricks, M. (2006), Objective Edge: Office ombuds help smooth conflicts – without litigation, Entrepreneur Magazine 

(2005) Ethics, HR and the Importance of Ombuds Programs, Human Capital Strategies published by the Human Resource Institute 



(2018) What Works:  Evidence-Based Ideas to Increase Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace, Center for Employment Equity, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  A follow up report from the 2018 conference organized by Devah Pager and David Pedulla, entitled “What Works to Reduce Discrimination?” and hosted by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. 

Hughes, V. and Troiano, E (2020) How Ombuds Programs Can Promote Diversity and Inclusion, Catalyst.org  



International Ombuds Association:  Organizational Ombuds (Conference Video)

International Ombuds Association, Guide for Setting Up a Conference Ombuds Program 

Burton, S. and Mershon, C. (2021) Assessing the Establishment of Ombuds Offices in Professional Academic Research Associations, Journal of International Ombudsman Association  

(2020) Guide Addresses Inappropriate Conference Behavior,  Exhibit City News 

Whitehorne, S. (2020) Is a Conference Ombuds Program Right For Your Association? ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, Associations Now 



United States:   Houk, C., Rowe, M., Katz, D., Katz, N., Marx, L., and Hedeen, T. (2016), A Reappraisal - The Nature and Value of Ombudsmen in Federal Agencies,  Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) 

Canada:  2018 Safe Workspaces: Starting a dialogue and taking action on harassment in the Public Service - Canada.ca  Published by the then Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Government of Canada.


IOA also publishes the Journal of International Ombudsman Association (JIOA) which is available to the public for review on a variety of issues impacting organizational ombuds.