What is an Ombuds and What Might They Do for Me?

An ombuds has been described as “a person who has an ear to the people” who provides confidential, independent, neutral, and informal support to employees. CIC introduced the ombuds service in January 2018 to help employees raise and resolve concerns that impact their ability to do their best work at CIC.

While not a replacement for existing resources at CIC like People & Culture and your manager, we’re here if you need us. We also work as “change agents” identify and bring anonymized trends to senior management so they can modify policies to improve the workplace.

Here are some questions (and answers) about CIC’s ombuds function that we hope you find helpful.

All the best!

The CIC Ombuds Team – Jai, Megan, and Chuck

What is an ombuds, and what do they do?

An ombuds (or ombuds or ombudsperson) identifies and helps resolve employee concerns. Ombuds offer confidential, neutral, and independent assistance including informal conversations, referrals, and facilitated mediations.

If you happen to reach out to one of CIC’s ombuds, they will begin by letting you know that the conversation will be confidential, and your identity will not be shared with anyone. You, the visitor, will determine what happens at the end of the conversation.

The ombuds will start by listening to your concerns and goals. With your input and permission, the ombuds can support you in a variety of ways as you seek to achieve your goals:

  • Prepare for an upcoming conversation or meeting
  • Provide insight into a complicated situation or a clearer perspective on a concern
  • Brainstorm options and solutions
  • Facilitate conversations, mediations, and meetings
  • Refer employees to other appropriate CIC resources like People & Culture or another resource

What won’t the ombuds do?

While the ombuds provides a range of support, the services provided by the ombuds do not replace other roles or procedures at CIC. Ombuds cannot do the following:

  • Provide legal advice or psychological counseling
  • Render judgments or decisions
  • Provide formal notice to CIC
  • Participate in a formal meeting on an employee’s behalf
  • Directly enact policies or changes in response to employees’ concerns

What can I expect when I contact a CIC ombuds?

When you call or set up a meeting with an ombuds, you are simply starting a conversation. The beginning of your conversation might go something like this:

Thanks for reaching out. Our conversation might involve sensitive information or things you might not want me share, so I want you to know that I plan to keep our conversation in confidence unless you tell me otherwise. The only reason I would break this confidentiality is if you tell me that you might hurt yourself or someone else.

I want to emphasize that you are in control here. As we talk, I am going to ask what you want me to do (if anything) in response to your concerns. I won’t take any additional steps without your permission.

If you don’t have any questions about my role in our conversation, I’d like to hear more about why you wanted to speak.

The ombuds will give you the space to name your concern and how you would like to see it resolved. From there, they will help you brainstorm options and identify how you want to move forward.

If you feel that your conversation provided necessary clarity and support, you are free to tell the ombuds that you won’t need their assistance moving forward. They’ll keep your identity and information in confidence. You can keep your matter open with the ombuds as long as their services are helpful to you.

You can also work with the ombuds and other CIC resources at the same time. The ombuds offers another type of support to employees at CIC, and ombuds often work alongside HR and People & Culture partners to help employees resolve disputes and achieve their goals.

What type of issues can the ombuds help with?

The ombuds can hear any and all issues an employee is experiencing. What differs is how the ombuds can help. Sometimes the ombuds’ assistance will be limited to helping you gain insight or decide how you want to move forward with a concern. Sometimes the ombuds will refer to a more appropriate resource that can better help you meet your needs. The ombuds is an informal and independent function, and they can help you clarify your goals and plan to manage whatever issues you have.

Who are CIC’s ombuds, and how do I contact them?

CIC has three ombuds available for employees:  Jai Calloway, Megan Winkeler, and Chuck Doran. Each has extensive experience working with employees to help them productively resolve disputes and find solutions to their issues. You can learn more about each ombuds and find their contact information here:  www.mwi.org/cic-ombuds


Where can I learn more about the ombuds function?

The Ombuds Team webpage and a list of FAQs about the ombuds function, which can be found here: www.mwi.org/cic-ombuds-faqs

You’re welcome to reach out to a member of CIC’s Ombuds Team, even if it’s just to say hi! Thanks!

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