‘I felt a sense of hope’: How the Office of the Staff Ombuds is improving belonging at Michigan Medicine
Approximately a 4-minute read
- The Office of the Staff Ombuds is available to serve as a confidential, impartial and safe place for all non-bargained-for employees to discuss workplace concerns.
- Each visitor to the office “drives the process,” and will stay in control of how they want to proceed once they meet with an ombuds team member.
- If you have a concern that you’d like to bring to the attention of the staff ombuds, you can reach out via this contact form on the office’s website. Employees can also call the office at 734-936-0600 or email email@example.com.
In a high-stress work environment, conflict is inevitable. And unfortunately, there are times when those conflicts make staff members feel unheard or uncomfortable. Interpersonal and organizational dynamics can be challenging.
If you find yourself in such a situation, there is hope for action that could make you feel heard and included. The Office of the Staff Ombuds is available to serve as a confidential, impartial and safe place for all non-bargained-for employees to discuss their concerns.
“One of U-M Health’s strategic priorities is belonging, and we are committed to ensuring that all of our staff feel like they belong here,” said Jacqueline Bowman, Ph.D., staff ombuds for U-M and Michigan Medicine.
How the process works
The staff ombuds is a confidential place where the visitor drives the process.
“The visitor is the architect of each interaction,” Bowman said. “They are able to share as much or as little about their work situation as they’d like in a way that they feel respected and non-judged.”
And the perk of the ombuds system? The team is not obligated to report things to those higher in the organization.
“That tends to allow our visitors to more openly share their feelings or concerns,” Bowman said.
For instance, a staff member may come to the Office of the Staff Ombuds and reveal that they feel as though they are being treated unfairly by a manager. However, they aren’t quite sure how they want to proceed.
The ombuds team can provide a few options moving forward:
- Bowman and her team may provide shuttle diplomacy, which could include speaking with the manager or supervisor, to better understand the conflict and ways to manage it
- The team can help mediate and facilitate conversations between the employee and their supervisor
- The ombuds will help weigh the benefits and risks of other appropriate university resources available, such as Human Resources, the Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience or the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX (ECRT) Office.
- The individual might choose to do nothing more than voice their concerns to the staff ombuds. “We don’t fix situations on our own,” Bowman said. “However, we empower the employee by providing options, tools and resources that may help them manage the situation that they are in.”
‘I am starting to visualize a path forward’
Since debuting in 2018, the Office of the Staff Ombuds has received positive feedback from across the university from those who have used their unique services.
Here’s a sampling of messages they have received:
- “[The ombuds] was so genuinely caring, kind, knowledgeable and supportive and really made me feel heard and important. I am starting to visualize a path for moving forward and I feel optimistic.”
- “It was better than I expected. I appreciated [the team’s] sincere interest in understanding the conflict and helpfulness in talking through next steps. For the first time in months, I felt a sense of hope.”
- “I am so glad we have this objective intermediary resource available to us. This is truly what I need.”
- “Thank you so much for your time, energy, enthusiasm and wisdom shared with me. You are a real gift to those of us lucky enough to work with you and have a generosity of spirit that is rare in today’s world.”
- “While it was my first time [using their services], I expected a supportive and understanding experience. That was exactly what I got, and I really appreciated it.”
How to reach out
If you have a concern that you’d like to bring to the attention of the staff ombuds, you can reach out via this contact form on the office’s website. Employees can also call the office at 734-936-0600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ombuds team will meet with visitors as soon as possible, typically within one week or less.
“We may be the first person who an employee really feels listens to their concern, so we want to ensure you don’t need to wait,” Bowman said. “Your well-being is our priority as is making Michigan Medicine the best work environment it can possibly be.”
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