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Conflict is inevitable in any organization, but most conflicts can generally be resolved early, before escalating into stressful and costly lawsuits. Many governmental agencies, businesses, schools, hospitals, and other entities maintain ombuds programs to serve their employees and avoid litigation.
Management may not know about potential problems with employees until a spark of conflict has turned into a raging fire. For this reason, some employers are using ombuds to help them develop better management policies for their businesses and keep them in touch with the concerns of their employees.
Ombuds are designated neutrals who provide confidential assistance for employees when conflicts arise. In a safe and confidential environment, ombuds actively listen to employees’ concerns. Ombuds then make recommendations to employers and suggest policies and actions that will be fair and equitable to all parties.
Ombuds may offer coaching on ethics or other management issues and give feedback to management while keeping the source of their information confidential, or they may serve as a mediator to manage or resolve disputes. In whistle blower situations, ombuds may provide options for a person to safely and effectively have their concerns heard.
Ombuds are obligated, subject to certain legal exceptions, to maintain confidentiality and to take all reasonable steps to keep all records and files pertaining to the matters brought to their attention confidential. This cloak of confidentiality provides employees a safe environment where they can express their concerns.
Persons trained in interest based negotiation are particularly well suited to provide ombuds services. Such services are usually provided to organizations on a contract basis.
Attorneys providing ombuds services adhere to The Standards for the Establishment and Operation of Ombuds Offices of the American Bar Association, and the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of The Ombudsman Association and the International Ombudsman Association.