Hi, welcome to the Dept of Interior Introduction to the Ombuds.
DOI is a complex organization with over 70,000 employees. We have a diverse and dynamic workforce and we care about our mission.
Our work can be intense, and let’s face it, working with people can be tricky, even in the best of circumstances. Sometimes, you need someone to help you think things through.
An Ombuds is a conflict resolution specialist that offers a confidential, informal sounding board to explore problem solving options. We are here to support people by listening, asking questions, and providing information about resources.
Most often people call us from somewhere private like an office or a conference room. We also plan site visits throughout the department and can with people in person.
[An Ombuds sitting in a conference room with a visitor]
Ombuds: Before we start, I want to go review my role. The ombuds office is confidential. I won’t share anything you say with anyone, unless there is an imminent risk of serious harm.
Employee 1: Oh no, it’s nothing like that, but I definitely want to make sure the agency knows what I have been going through.
Ombuds: Well, this is informal, so you aren’t filing any kind of grievance or complaint by talking with me. The agency won’t know anything about this unless you decide to raise it somewhere else and we can discuss those options.
Employee 1: Ok, that sounds good.
Ombuds: Good. I’m also neutral, so I’m not an advocate for staff or for the agency. My role is to help you think things through.
Employee 1: Oh, I could really use that.
Ombuds: Alright, last thing. I’m independent. Because I’m not an employee of any specific bureau, and I’m not part of management, that allows me to be confidential, neutral and informal.
From there, the conversation can go in many different directions. People raise concerns in a variety of categories such as supervisory and peer relationships; legal, compliance, and administrative issues, mission and strategy concerns, safety and others.
With each person, the Ombuds listens, helps people get clear about their goals, and explores options. Communication comes up a lot, and we can help coach people to have productive conversations.
Employee 2: Oh I never thought about it that way. I feel like I have a plan for how to have this difficult conversation now.
Here the kinds of options that people might think through when speaking with an ombuds:
Communicating directly to solve a problem, Raising an issue up a supervisory chain, Requesting mediation or facilitation, Seeking more information, contacting other resources such as Employee Assistance, Equal Employment Offices or pursuing official complaints.
There is no universal solution for each dilemma, but the Ombuds strive to help individuals feel more confident about what steps they want to take.
Employee 3: After thinking it through, I am going to follow up on a few resources that I learned from the Ombuds. Once I know more, that will help me decide which way to go.
These are some of the comments we have received from individuals who contacted us:
Employee 3: There are no easy answers and this is really affecting my health. But the Ombuds was completely professional and made the process a little less stressful. She connected me to some resources -- a great service offered by DOI.
Employee 2: I appreciate having a knowledgeable, unbiased person to talk with about my concerns. The Ombuds office was calming, reassuring and thoughtful in their responses and options they presented to me.
Employee 1: I had never heard of the Ombuds program until a friend recommended it. It was exactly what I needed at this time. Thank you!
[Slide with each of our pictures on it with our names]
If you think you could use a sounding board on a workplace issue, get in touch with us. Each agency at Interior has a designated Ombuds. All of our contact information can be found on the CADR website: https://www.doi.gov/pmb/cadr/CADR-Staff