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What Really Happens at the Ombuds Office?

What Really Happens at the Ombuds Office?

In my most recent post, I talked a little about why I am shadowing folks around UNLV. I find immersing myself in other peoples’ workplace realities intellectually stimulating (there’s something invigorating about knowing with absolute certainty that you have the least relevant knowledge in the immediate area). What’s more, it helps me to better understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. And I do sincerely feel that if we spent more time with each other, we would probably get along better, and be able to more easily resolve issues when we didn’t.

Which is why it’s a bit disappointing that, for many people on campus, the work of the Ombuds Office remains a mystery.

Part of that is because of the confidential nature of the office—in order to remain compliant with the International Ombuds Association’s Standards of Practice, we are forbidden from sharing who comes to the office, and what they do there. But the other reason is a less-than-perfect idea of what an ombuds does. That’s entirely understandable, since the ombuds profession is relatively young, and there are several varieties of ombuds, some doing very different things.

For the most part (when I’m not spending time watching other people work or helping out), I do two things: run group workshops and meet with people one-on-one. The group workshop part isn’t so mysterious. I talk a little about a conflict resolution concept and guide people through interactive exercises to help demonstrate that concept, imparting knowledge and skills.

But what goes on when no one else is watching, down the stairs in FDH?

Usually, most one-on-one consultations go like this. You’ll ring the bell. Tifara Rachal, the Ombuds Office Program Manager, will answer the door and warmly greet you. She’ll probably ask if you have already filled out our anonymous intake form, which collects non-identifiable general demographic data. If you haven’t, she will queue up our laptop so you can. If you already have, or are a repeat visitor, she’ll take you right in to see me.

Once we’re sitting down together (assuming we haven’t met before), I’ll briefly summarize a few salient points about the Ombuds Office (namely, that everything we talk about is confidential, except if someone discloses the imminent risk of serious harm, and that telling me something does not constitute giving UNLV formal notice) before asking you about yourself, and not your issue.

Read the complete article here.

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