Role of the Staff Ombudsperson

Please call the Staff Ombudsperson at (336) 278-5560 if you have questions or concerns.

The Staff Ombudsperson at Elon University

The Staff Ombudsperson is authorized to confidentially receive complaints, concerns, or inquiries about alleged acts, omissions, improprieties and/or broader systemic problems within the ombudsperson’s defined jurisdiction, and to listen, offer options, facilitate resolutions, informally investigate or otherwise examine these issues independently and impartially. The Ombudsperson is authorized to work exclusively with staff.

Functions of the Role

The Elon University Staff Ombudsperson seeks to promote fairness, conflict resolution, and cooperation through education, negotiation, and mediation. The Staff Ombudsperson adheres to the Standards of Practice adopted by The International Ombudsman Association (IOA). These standards were developed in accordance with commonly understood principles within the Ombud’s profession and reflect the core values of IOA. The Standards of Practice help guide members in making responsible choices and further, are intended to promote constituents’ understanding of and confidence in Ombud’s Offices and their services.

The professional standards of independence, informality, neutrality, and confidentiality guide the work of the Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson is independent of all formal university processes or procedures. Therefore, he/she is authorized to informally assist with the resolution of issues and disputes. The Ombudsperson is a designated neutral party and does not

function as an advocate or representative. All conversations with the Ombudsperson are confidential, except when the safety or security of others are concerned, when permission is given by the complainant to speak with others involved in the case, in cases dealing with concerns about violations of the university’s non-discrimination policy, or where the Ombudsperson may be required by law to testify.  For concerns about discrimination or harassment on the basis of age, race, color, creed, sex, national or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or veteran’s status, please go to Bias Response website.

The Ombudsperson…
  •    Listens
  •    Coaches individuals to assist them in achieving their goals themselves
  •    Engages in shuttle diplomacy between individuals to assist communication
  •    Mediates to reach a mutually created agreement
  •    Promotes a safe place to talk, to the extent provided by law
  •    Answers questions or helps find someone who can
  •    Helps analyze situations, and identify and evaluate options for resolving problems or conflicts in the workplace
  •    Remains impartial to ALL individuals
  •    Facilitates communication between individuals or groups
  •    Seeks to prevent negative conflict through early intervention
The Ombudsperson Does NOT…
  •    Take sides, arbitrate, or adjudicate
  •    Intervene if the staff member has already contacted an attorney or the Office of Human Resources
  •    Become involved in a case that has reached a disciplinary or termination process because it is no longer an         informal matter
  •    Offer confidentiality in cases dealing with violations of the university’s non-discrimination policy
  •    Become involved in a personnel dispute if a hearing before a University grievance panel has occurred and the     proposed decision has been sustained by the hearing board, or if a grievant is represented by counsel
  •    Conduct formal investigations
  •    Make administrative decisions for administrators
  •    Give legal advice
  •    Determine “guilt” or “innocence” of those accused of wrongdoing
  •    Make or change policy
  •    Take action without permission
  •    Act as a witness or later testify in a formal grievance or legal proceeding unless compelled by law
  •    Keep identifying records nor assume a custodial role for formal documentation
  •    Participate in any formal grievance processes
  •    Breach confidentiality
Definitions of Categories of Concern
  •    Services and Facilities: institutional benefits/activities and/or the physical, structural, or environmental               aspects of the workplace.
  •    Health and Safety: any aspect of the working conditions that may negatively impact the health and safety of       employees and/or opportunities to keep physician appointments and have adequate time for treatment and         recovery.
  •    Procedures and Policies: clarification of policies (both written and unwritten), how they apply to specific             individuals, and what procedures one should follow to register a formal complaint.
  •    Ethics: behavior that does not conform to professional standards of conduct
  •    Interpersonal Conflicts: staff in a department of the university are having repeated and multiple problems in       communicating with one another.
  •    External Issues: issues unrelated to the workplace that negatively impact employee performance.
  •    Problematic Style of Management and Communication: staff feel that their supervisor or higher administrator:     does

o   not listen to them or respond to discussion of issues

o   is unavailable for discussions

o   refuses to offer explanations for their decisions

o   subtly or jokingly threatens to withhold or allocate resources or positive evaluations

o   asks for personal assistance unrelated to university work

o   agrees to work-related terms with the staff member but does not fulfill that commitment

o   goes into a rage and verbally insults others

           o   always seems to blame others when things go wrong

Forms of Assistance Provided to Staff

  •    Individual Consultation
  •    Referral
Definitions of Forms of Assistance

Individual Consultation, often about university policies and procedures, is the primary form of assistance provided by the Ombudsperson. It involves extensive discussion of a situation to discover the staff’s concerns, consider their goals, discuss potential strategies that one might utilize to resolve the conflict, educate about the university’s formal and informal organization, and/or discuss timing of actions and diplomatic approaches to taking action. Assistance in this category often includes conflict coaching to explore ways that one might raise difficult issues, approach others, and/or attempt to gain cooperation.

Some cases result in formal complaint procedures during or after Ombudsperson consultation, but the Ombudsperson is never directly involved in this process due to the informal nature of the Ombudsperson’s role within the university.

Referrals occur when the staff needs are best met through contact with EAP or another university office or department.