Ombuds Office

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Frequently Asked Questions
 

What does the term "Ombuds" mean?
Who can use the services of the Ombuds Office?
How might an Ombuds help me?
When should I contact the Ombuds Office?
When is it not appropriate to involve the Ombuds Office?
Can the Ombuds Office give me legal advice?


What does the term “Ombuds” mean?


The name “ombudsman” comes from Swedish and literally means “representative.”  At the most fundamental level, an ombuds is one who assists individuals and groups in the resolution of conflicts or concerns.  There are a number of different titles or names for this position, including: “ombudsman,” “ombudsperson” or “ombuds”.  The Medical College of Wisconsin has chosen to use the gender-neutral term “Ombuds” to reflect our cultural sensitivity and commitment to diversity.  

Ombuds work in all types of organizations, including government agencies, colleges and universities, corporations, hospitals and other medical facilities and news organizations.  The organizational 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.  The primary duties of an organizational ombuds are 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 to bring systemic concerns to the attention of the organization for resolution.

An organizational 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.  

The most important skills of an effective ombuds include active listening, communicating successfully with a diverse range of people, remaining nonjudgmental, having the courage to speak up and address problems at higher levels within an organization, problem solving and analytical ability and conflict resolution skills.

Who can use the services of the Ombuds Office?

All faculty, staff physicians, postdoctoral fellows and staff of the Medical College of Wisconsin can use the Ombuds Office.

How might an Ombuds help me?

  • By helping to surface information when people are afraid to come forward
  • By helping to clarify and resolve a conflict
  • By helping to develop and evaluate options or courses of action, and assisting visitors in knowing how to pursue an option
  • By identifying dispute resolution alternatives for people who seek options and by referring individuals to appropriate services
  • By looking into a problem informally (with permission) and, when appropriate, presenting recommendations to the visitor or others
  • By individually talking with the parties involved and going back and forth between them until they are either able to talk together or they have a better understanding of the dispute so that an agreement between them can be reached
  • By mediating disputes by bringing together the parties involved, in a formal way, in order to assist them in reaching their own settlement
  • By recommending systems change to appropriate individuals
  • By coaching visitors about how an issue or concern may be presented more effectively

When should I contact the Ombuds Office?

  • To discuss a situation off the record with someone knowledgeable about the Medical College of Wisconsin and its policies so that you can decide whether to take action and, if so, what to do
  • To request information about management decisions, policies, or rights and responsibilities of all parties
  • To explore alternatives for resolving a problem
  • To learn the process for filing a formal complaint or appeal
  • To request a “reality check”
  • To try to resolve a conflict in an informal way
  • To learn how to resolve a conflict on one’s own
  • To learn what other resources may be available
  • To ask for a confidential channel to surface information

When is it not appropriate to involve the Ombuds Office?

  • If you want legal advice or representation. The Ombuds Office can advise you of your rights within the Medical College of Wisconsin, but will not provide legal advice or represent you in a legal matter.
  • If you have a non-College- related disagreement or problem. The Ombuds Office will not address disputes between members of the campus community and private individuals, companies, or organizations not affiliated with the Medical College.
  • If you want someone to advocate for you in a dispute. The Ombuds Officer is a neutral facilitator, has no stake in the outcome and is not an advocate for either side.

Can the Ombuds Office give me legal advice?

  • No.  The Ombuds Office will advise you of your rights within the College structure but does not provide legal advice.
  • The Ombuds will not testify in any formal judicial or administrative hearing about concerns brought to his attention.
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Page Updated 10/29/2014