Ombuds Basics

An Ombuds Office is a
most valuable resource

We can help you and your organization establish an Ombuds Office. You will find substantial tangible and intangible benefits naturally follow—including more predictable outcomes, better risk management, increased productivity, and other financial rewards.

Our mission is clear and there are no hidden agendas.

An Ombuds provides members of your organization a safe and convenient resource to help them understand, resolve, and more effectively cope with their tough workplace concerns, including complaints, conflicts, disputes, and other workplace issues. The Ombuds process is confidential, neutral, informal, and independent.

The Ombuds promotes a Just Culture in the workplace (what some call a Culture of Safety)—based on respect and fairness that develops personal responsibility across the organization. It is appropriate for both union and non-union situations. The results can be measurable.

In addition, the Ombuds provides early warning alerts, recommendations, and non-identifiable statistical data to senior management regarding emerging areas for organizational concern

An Ombuds Office complements but does not replace your organization’s formal channels, such as the EEO and grievance procedures. The Ombuds does not have authority to establish, change, or set aside any rules, policies, or management decisions.


Benefits are reflected on both your top and bottom lines.

Like clockwork, an Ombuds office can provide a wealth of benefits.  Its costs are modest, and its ROI favorable, with a variety of additional value-add benefits in addition to improving organizational health with confidential, early resolution of problems before they escalate.  By way of example, benefits can include:

1. Measurable reduction of employee burnout, turnover, and replacement costs.

2. Measurable decrease in legal liabilities, as well as use of money and other resources to support grievances and lawsuits.

3. Increased employee communication, satisfaction, and measurable productivity.

4. Mitigated risks with more predictable outcomes.

5. Early warning and de-escalation for new areas of organizational concern.

6. Better global information, no longer restricted within departmental or other silos—to identify opportunities and trends for concern.

7. Support for a positive organizational culture of fairness, trust, and respect—both in perception and fact.

8. Improved public presentation and perception, which may expand funding opportunities.

We believe outward facing businesses, such as hospitality and retail where 90% of employees have direct customer contact will particularly benefit.  In these situations, it is likely employee enthusiasm or discontent will unconsciously be communicated and materially effect the sales environment.

A straightforward process grounded in 4 Fundamental Principles

Visitors bring a wide-variety of employment and workplace related issues to the Ombuds. Many effect productivity or quality. Many are unpleasant or sensitive. They might involve co-workers, subordinates, colleagues, supervisors, executives, outside suppliers, or someone else. They may be about such things as communication, bureaucracy, evaluations, discrimination, harassment, abuse, ethics, or be EEO related, discipline decisions,, health and safety, or preparation for a difficult conversation. But all are of great concern to the persons bringing them, and many would be of great interest to you if you knew about them.

To provide freedom and safety to its “visitors,” the Ombuds adheres to 4 Fundamental Principles: confidentiality, informality, neutrality, and independence:

Confidentiality. The Ombuds will not disclose the names of its visitors, their concerns, or what’s discussed without their express permission. The only exceptions would be in the unlikely event there is a perceived imminent risk of serious physical harm, or when a court orders disclosure despite the organization’s best efforts to maintain the confidentiality.

Informality. All communications with the Ombuds are “conversational” and “off the record.” Contacting the Ombuds does not place the organization on notice regarding any problem. The Ombuds will not conduct a formal investigation, and it keeps few records.

Neutrality and Impartiality. The Ombuds does not take sides; it values the rights and interests of all parties. It does not serve as an advocate for a particular person or point-of-view. The Ombuds works for fair process and fair resolution of issues.

Independence. The Ombuds is not a part of the formal organizational structure, but it has direct access to senior management in order to perform its work. The Ombuds does not report to the HR Department or the organization’s administration. Under the authority of the Ombuds’ Charter, there can be no retaliation for consulting with it.

The Value of Responsible Discretion

What the Ombuds can do. The Ombuds talks with visitors about their concerns, and that helps them better understand the issues and identify formal and informal options. The Ombuds may offer to support visitors as they pursue one of those options, and it may provide conflict and communications coaching. With the visitor’s permission it may make informal inquiries to gather data and understanding. If appropriate, and with the permission of all the parties, the Ombuds may facilitate a conversation or even mediate the conflict. The Ombuds may also explain company policies or make referrals to other offices in the organization.

What the Ombuds cannot do. The Ombuds cannot make decisions for anyone or require any person to take action to resolve any issue. The Ombuds cannot give legal advice or testify on behalf of anyone in a dispute. It will not provide psychological counseling. It will not serve as an advocate for any party. It will not engage in any formal investigation. It will not inquire into the application or interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement or the obligation of fair representation by a union. It cannot take part in a formal grievance process or appeal. It cannot become involved in a case for which a formal process has begun.

Ombuds Standards of Practice. The Ombuds operates in accordance with the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association, the most prominent professional association of organizational ombuds in the world.

Vision and communication
fire passion, fuel collaboration,
set direction, rally the team–
so results naturally follow.

A Just Culture catalyzes
that commitment
throughout the organization.


Discover how reframing a conflict story can empower self-respon-sibility. Download the free chapter from David’s book Conflict Is Not A Sporting Event.



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