Ombuds Office

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Our Role

The Ombuds Office Does
The Ombuds Office Does Not
How Might an Ombuds Help
When Might You Contact the Ombuds Office
What Will Happen if You Call
Informal Process
Internal Formal Process

The Ombuds Office at the Medical College of Wisconsin is a safe place which provides faculty, staff and administrators with impartial, informal, neutral and confidential workplace issues resolution services.  The Ombuds Office helps people express workplace concerns, resolve disputes, manage conflicts and learn more productive ways of communicating.  We assist people with interpersonal misunderstandings or disputes in the workplace, as well as those with concerns about academic or administrative issues.  Additionally, we attempt to help individuals resolve their concerns equitably, and, if possible, informally.  The Ombuds is a designated neutral party and avoids any situation which would create a conflict of interest.  The Ombuds is an informal resource and does not participate in any formal adjudicative or administrative procedure regarding the concerns brought to his or her attention.

Our office operates independently as a supplement to existing administrative or formal grievance procedures and has no formal decision-making authority.  The Ombuds Office will listen to concerns and will discuss options for the resolution of problems, but we do not act as advocates for either side in a dispute.  Rather, we act as advocates for fairness for all parties involved.  

Contact us as a first step, a last resort, or anywhere along the way.  Come and share your concerns, evaluate your situation, and plan your next step—if you want to take a next step.  Use of our services is voluntary and free.  Visitors will find our office a safe place to discuss their workplace concerns, no matter how large or small.  The Ombuds holds all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence and makes every effort not to disclose confidential communications unless given express permission to do so.  The only exceptions to this pledge of confidentiality are when the Ombuds determines that there is an imminent threat of harm or if the Ombuds is legally compelled to report the situation.

We also identify trends and challenges and can make recommendations for change in Medical College policy or practice when appropriate.  We are not decision makers, however.  We do not have the power to establish, change, or set aside any Medical College of Wisconsin rules, policies or management decisions.  

Our Principles

Four key principles guide our exercise of integrity and ethical behavior:  confidentiality, independence, informality and neutrality.  The Ombuds fosters respect for all members of the Medical College of Wisconsin community and promotes fairness in the content and administration of College practices, processes and policies.

We are confidential

We will not identify you or discuss your concerns with anyone without your permission.  The only exceptions are noted above.  We do not keep permanent records about individuals.  We do not testify voluntarily in any formal proceeding.  

We are impartial

We do not take sides; we consider the rights and interests of all parties.  We do not judge, discipline, or reward anyone.  We are advocates for fairness.  We have no personal stake in the outcome of any situation.

We are informal

Use of the Ombuds Office is not a substitute for formal procedures – such as filing a grievance.  Any communication with us is “off the record” and does not put the Medical College of Wisconsin on formal notice of a problem.  This means that time lines set forth in the Faculty Grievance procedure and/or Staff Conflict Resolution policy are not waived or extended while you consult us.

We are independent

We report directly to the President of the Medical College although we are independent of central administrative offices; also, we are not aligned with any department or group on campus.  We work hard to merit the trust others place in us.

The Ombuds Office Does:

  • Listen and discuss workplace questions, concerns and complaints
  • Offer a SAFE place to discuss your concerns
  • Open channels of workplace communication; facilitate conversations
  • Informally investigates complaints
  • Help evaluate various options to address workplace concerns
  • Answer questions concerning appropriate channels
  • Explain Medical College of Wisconsin policies and procedures
  • Facilitate communication between people
  • Advise individuals about steps to resolve problems informally
  • Advise individuals about formal and administrative options
  • Assist with problems that have not been resolved by other offices
  • Make appropriate referrals when informal options don't work
  • Discuss patterns of problems/complaints with administrators
  • Recommend changes to Medical College of Wisconsin policy, rules or procedures that are outdated, unclear or ineffective

The Ombuds Office Does Not:

  • Participate in formal grievance processes
  • Conduct formal investigations
  • Make administrative decisions for Medical College of Wisconsin administrators
  • Determine "guilt" or "innocence" of those accused of wrong-doing
  • Assign sanctions to individuals
  • Serve as witness in any administrative or legal proceedings, unless compelled to do so
  • Receive official "notice" for the Medical College about issues
  • Maintain records that identify visitors to the office

How Might an Ombuds Help?

  • By helping to surface information when people are afraid to come forward in the workplace
  • By helping to clarify and resolve a workplace 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 assisting in dispute resolution by bringing together the parties involved  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 Might You Contact The Ombuds Office?

  • To discuss a workplace 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 workplace problem
  • To learn the process for filing a formal complaint or appeal
  • To request a “reality check”
  • To try to resolve a workplace conflict in an informal way
  • To learn how to resolve a workplace conflict on one’s own
  • To learn what other resources may be available
  • To ask for a confidential channel to surface information

What Will Happen If You Call?

To contact the Office, call us any time at 414-266-8776.  You may provide information and also tell us how to reach you – or you may choose to remain anonymous.  You may make a telephone appointment or you may meet with us in person.  If you would like an appointment, and we are not immediately available, leave a message and we will contact you as soon as possible.  We also try to schedule appointments as quickly as possible, depending on the schedule of the visitor.

We will listen to your workplace concerns or suggestions and will try to brainstorm issues, options and possible outcomes with you.  You may decide that you would like just to think things over.  You may decide to handle a concern on your own or you might ask us to make an informal telephone call about the issue of concern.  If we agree to make a phone call, we would discuss with you whether this seems like an effective option.  The Ombuds and his staff will not answer questions about people with whom they may have spoken, nor disclose an individual’s name or specific issue, with anyone outside of the Ombuds Office – unless during discussions with a visitor they are given permission to do so for the purpose of informal conflict resolution, and if the Ombuds also agrees to attempt informal resolution.  The exceptions to this pledge of confidentiality are described above.

We can help you bring information to the attention of appropriate individuals.  We would be happy to talk with you about Medical College policies, to refer you to relevant line and staff managers and to discuss formal options for resolving complaints.  

The Ombuds does not conduct formal investigations, adjudicate, arbitrate or serve as a witness voluntarily in any administrative or legal proceedings either at the Medical College or elsewhere.  Since the Office is made available to faculty, staff and administrators as a purely voluntary and “alternate” channel of communication, those people who use the program also will be considered to have agreed to abide by these principles of confidentiality.   

Informal Process

The Ombuds will provide you with a safe forum to voice your workplace concerns, evaluate your situation, organize your thoughts, assess your feelings and decide what is important and relevant according to your specific circumstances.
Working together, we will generate and explore options for you to consider.  Options can range from simply talking about your problem to pursuing a formal grievance internally or externally.  You choose the options you prefer.  Keep in mind that timelines contained in policies and procedures, such as the Staff Conflict Resolution Policy and the Faculty Grievance Procedure, are not waived or extended while informal options are explored.
Your privacy will be respected, as conversations will ordinarily remain confidential.  Notes are not kept. In very unusual circumstances, such as a court order or where there is a potential threat to safety, and all other options appear to have been exhausted, information may need to be shared.  Please let us know if you have particular concerns about confidentiality.

Internal Formal Process

If you choose not to use informal processes or attempts at resolving the situation informally have failed, you may choose a more formal grievance process.  The Ombuds will discuss how to access the formal process appropriate to your circumstances but does not participate in any formal proceedings.
© 2014 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 10/29/2014