Staff Ombudsperson Position
The Staff Ombuds Office, established in 2017, promotes the university’s DEI commitment and core values by addressing issues that create conflict at the intrapersonal, interpersonal and structural levels. Given the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in the past year and a half, the Staff Ombudsperson strategically evaluated how best to offer and deliver high-quality services to eligible staff, senior leaders and other stakeholders. We evaluated our work from a different lens, keeping in mind our primary objectives to educate, inform and act as a catalyst for staff by promoting a positive, inclusive and accessible workplace. Our emphasis when working with stakeholders was on how to create a more diverse, engaged and equitable organization where staff feel their contribution is valued.
Additionally, the Staff Ombuds Office spent considerable time building collaborative relationships around culture change efforts across campus and Michigan Medicine. We have successfully garnered buy-in from senior leaders and forged partnerships in alignment with DEI efforts to promote a “speak up” culture without fear of reprisal; such a culture ultimately helps to improve trust, mutual respect, accountability and retention efforts.
Our second full year in operation saw a 20% increase in visitors to the Staff Ombuds Office over FY20, resulting in 600 (new and return) appointments being facilitated. In FY21, much of the ombuds effort focused on helping staff clarify and understand newly implemented COVID-19 policies, procedures and guidelines that impacted their workplace, e.g., furloughs, remote and in-person work, etc. Also, the staff ombuds consulted with HR and senior leaders to ensure fairness in how new policies were applied. Reported conflicts included civility/respect/equity of treatment, excessive stress, retaliation, communication and lack of transparency. Of staff members utilizing the office, 54% were from the Ann Arbor campus and 46% were from Michigan Medicine, 22% of the visitors held a management-status position, while 78% were in non-managerial positions.
In May of 2017, a working committee assembled by Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Robert M. Sellers recommended the appointment of a staff ombudsperson. This position was posted on April 23, 2018. Chief among the responsibilities for this position are providing university staff members with impartial conflict resolution services, information and referrals; serving as a campuswide resource for policy and procedures; acting as a liaison between individuals and university administration; identifying problems, trends and organizational concerns; and making recommendations for systems change.
In 2018, Dr. Jacqueline Bowman was selected to fill the position of Staff Ombudsperson and immediately began establishing the structures and partnerships necessary to support her role within the university’s DEI initiative. A central office was configured and has been fully operational since September of 2019, including the hiring of a limited number of professional staff members to provide consultation services.