An Ombuds in a business setting can be a valuable resource to the organization and its people. Conflict is not a phenomenon, and we should expect it when two or more people interact in any enterprise or endeavor. It is a real part of our workplace, and it cannot be avoided. Since it occurs naturally, we might want to focus on how best to deal with it rather than pretend it’s not there. The Ombuds is the lightening rod of conflict and not only attracts people in conflict but seeks out those individuals who appear involved in disputes or disagreements at work. The key is to interact early before an interpersonal conflict spreads among other members of the group. Sometimes conflict cannot be seen, but it is felt in the form of anxiety, stress, discomfort, suspicion, mistrust, low morale, disharmony, and an emotional malaise. If left unresolved, this latent conflict will emerge as overt hostility, and the risk and cost to the business is greatly enlarged if appropriate and decisive action is not taken.
An external Ombuds can be the eyes, ears, and intellect of the company that recognizes the value and importance of alert and pro-active intervention of common and ordinary complaints, reflected as the value leadership places on the people who work in such a caring environment. It is a form of risk management with the added benefit of allowing people with a problem to work it out in an early and simple way, before it can get out of control or more difficult to manage. Almost every workplace has a person who listens well and can give some advice or feedback to friends and colleagues. Even though it is difficult to measure the value of such interaction, one must assume it does have benefit since it repeats day after day in the workplace. To harness the benefits of intervention by a knowledgeable and competent person identified as the Ombuds in a confidential and privileged manner can be of large value to the workplace.
Organizations are social systems in which people are strongly influenced by the organizational culture. Therefore, the most potent tool for improvement is cultural change with the goal to increase the long-term health and performance of the organization, while enriching the lives of its members. People can affect systems as much as systems affect people, and part of organizational development is allowing people to influence the systems, which influence them.
The External Ombuds Program respects individual interests and needs, promotes effective communications, and restores relationships through appropriate dispute resolution, education, training, and change management program.