From a young age, I knew I was going to be in the military and it’s a decision I have never regretted. For myself, there is nothing better than helping someone find solutions to their problems. In my role as Senior First Sergeant in the US Air Force, I have utilized the skills I learned as a certified mediator. My passion for being of service has led me to pursue my Masters Degree in Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. I worked at SMU for many years in the Office of Development. For the last nine years I have been a teacher with Cherry Creek Schools and most recently at Cherry Creek High School. My training has given me the ability to be a problem solver and promote excellence.
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Organizations typically have two types of ombudspersons: formal ones and informal ones. The second group vastly outnumbers the first. Almost all organizations employ people to whom employees turn when they don't know how to handle a problem. This "go-to person" maybe a middle manager, a foreman or an ombudsperson. Ombudsman is an old Swedish word that has been used for centuries to describe a person who represents or protects the interest of another.
Complaint programs, including those using an ombudsperson, are designed to promote excellence, to increase organizational learning, to increase participation, to decrease litigation, to avoid bad publicity, to promote positive customer and employee relations.
The Columbia Encyclopedia (online edition, 2008), describes the work of the ombudsman in the following way: "As a government agent serving as an intermediary between citizens and the government bureaucracy, the ombudsman is usually independent, impartial, universally accessible, and empowered only to recommend.
The extent of ombudsman activity in a wide variety of industries from manufacturing to health care suggests that complaint topics are almost limitless. Examples drawn from the business sphere include personnel policies, physical conditions, recreational activities, sexual harassment, discrimination, supervisory conflict, interdepartmental conflict, production processes, personality conflict, personal problems, and general dispute resolution.
These functions amount to a definition of ombudsperson activities
On occasion, living and working bring rage, grief and bewilderment to everyone. Managers and employees often feel there has been "no one to listen." Possibly the most important function of an ombudsperson (complaint system) is to deal with feelings.
Many employees do not know how the university determines promotions, transfers, or benefits, or how it deals with problems in the workplace like harassment. It is therefore very important that the Ombudsperson be prepared to give out information, and make referrals to helping resources, on a one-to-one basis, at a time and in the fashion needed by an individual with a problem.
Many employees and managers face tenacious problems with only three alternatives in mind: to quit, to put up with their problem, or to start some formal process of complaint, or suit or investigation. These are not the only alternatives. The Ombudsperson will help a visitor develop and explore and role-play new options, then help the visitor choose an option, then follow-up to see that it worked. And in many cases, the best option may be for the person with a problem to seek to deal with it effectively on his or her own.
Sometimes a visitor will opt for a go-between. This is especially true where one or more parties need to save face or deal with emotions before a good solution can be found. This is much the most common type of intervention reported by ombudsman practitioners.
At other times, a visitor will choose the option of meeting with others, together with the ombudsperson. Like shuttle diplomacy, this usually happens on an informal basis. However, the "settlements" of shuttle diplomacy and mediation may be made formal by the parties involved.
Investigation of a problem or a complaint can be formal or informal, with or without recommendations to an adjudicator - for example, to a grievance committee or to a line or senior manager. All four of these investigatory options are reported by ombudsman practitioners, and are more or less common depending on the company and the ombudsperson.
This function is very rare for the ombudsperson. Here, the classic phrase about ombudsman practitioners is likely to obtain: "They may not make or change or set aside a management rule or decision: theirs is the power of reason and persuasion."
Possibly the most important function of the ombudsperson is to receive, perhaps analyze, then pass along information that will foster change in the university. Where policies are outdated or unintelligible, or new problems have arisen, or a new diversity appears in the employee pool, an ombudsperson may be a low-key, steady-state change agent. This function also provides a mechanism for dealing with some very difficult confidentiality problems.
The Ombuds Office acts as a no-barrier, first-stop for students, faculty and staff seeking guidance, information and insight from a trusted advisor who is: