“When whistleblowers go to the media or lawyers, the results can be disastrous for an organization. Think of Edward Snowden and the N.S.A.
And even smaller employee concerns, like discrimination lawsuits, usually cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars. These days, more and more corporations are turning to organizational ombudsmen. They allow employees to talk about workplace issues confidentially, before things escalate.”
This is an excerpt from an article exploring the workings of an organizational ombuds office. You can access the full article here:
The ever-present change and demands of today’s business environment has created a need for an organizational ombuds to support corporations to be proactive in managing employee’s needs. An organizational ombuds office provides an independent, neutral, informal, and confidential environment for your employees to discuss workplace concerns and resolve issues. From mediating disputes to planning and practicing for a difficult conversation, Ombudsman advocate for fairness by listening and supporting employees with problematic issues at all levels of your organization with complete confidentiality. Ombudsmen assist individuals by working with them to understand and consider their options, answer questions, facilitate communication, and provide information and referral, while ensuring it is clear that we have no decision-making authority on behalf of your organization.
Establishing an ombudsman’s office creates a safe place for employees to sort out their concerns and evaluate their options. This allows the corporation to open the door for employees to speak about potentially serious issues they might otherwise be reluctant to reveal due to uncertainty or fears of retaliation or ostracism. Because the ombudsman is an informal channel it is not a ‘location of notice.’ That means if an employee raises a particularly contentious issue, the organization ‘does not know.’ Thus the employee is safe to assess whether and/or how to escalate the issue, and what the implications are of choosing a particular course of action.
An organizational ombudsman will identify new issues and opportunities for systemic change for the organization. The unique positioning of a third-party ombudsman serves to provide unfiltered information that can produce insight to issues and resolutions. It is a source of detection and early warning of new issues and a source of creative suggestions to improve existing processes. Through regular communication with your organization regarding these emerging issues of concern (with no attribution, to safeguard those who have come to us) an organization has an early warning system that can surface and resolve problems before they become costly.
Assessments conducted by John Zinsser of Pacifica Human Communications, a leading expert on ombudsman program performance metrics, show that for every $1 invested in the ombudsman function, between $14 and $23 of value is ultimately returned to the organization.
The Workplace Fairness Institute is launching a Workplace Fairness Ombuds office in October. Stay tuned for more information or feel free to connect directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) if this initiative may be of interest to your organization.