The newly established Office of the Staff Ombuds provides a unique service to non-bargained-for staff on the U-M Ann Arbor campus and at Michigan Medicine: a free, confidential, and informal exploration of available options for navigating workplace concerns.
Our Staff Ombuds is Dr. Jacqueline (Jacquie) Bowman, a dedicated member of the U-M community with previous experience in creating a positive and equitable workplace through conflict resolution as an ombudsperson at various institutions and as the lead counselor and program specialist at the Center for the Education of Women (CEW+). Donna Hooper, program specialist in the Office of the Staff Ombuds has a background in staff culture and inclusivity and supports the office with her nine years of institutional knowledge. The Office of the Staff Ombuds operates within a code of ethics and standards of practice provided by the International Ombuds Association (learn more on their website).
Here’s what they do:
- They offer informal dispute resolution services that are confidential and off the record, including consultations, facilitated discussions between the involved parties, referrals and resources.
- They provide a safe place for staff to explore conflict resolution options and provide tools to support those paths.
- They provide a caring, impartial and non-judgmental space for staff to share concerns, evaluate options, prepare for difficult conversations and improve their conflict management skills.
- They work collaboratively with campus resources to help create options for resolutions.
- They serve as a neutral resource to empower staff to determine what steps are in their best interest.
Here’s what they don’t do:
- They don’t “fix” problems!
- They don’t replace campus resources such as those that support human resources, legal matters, and counseling.
- They don’t conduct formal investigations or any other formal processes (and must step back if a formal process occurs to maintain the integrity of the office).
- They do not make decisions for the staff member. The staff member always drives the process in a way that makes them feel most comfortable towards the resolution path they choose.
Jacquie says, “Our purpose is to empower staff, so they can make informed decisions and see a path forward. I love providing a safe place where staff can share their story and be heard. ”
The Office of the Staff Ombuds supports a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture at U-M by adhering to the principles of fair and equal treatment and promoting a civil and positive work environment. While they never share information about a staff member or their situation, they are able to track themes of issues staff are dealing with and share those themes with leadership, so that leaders have a better understanding of staff and culture. This can improve our campus culture and help us progress toward a more equitable and positive community.