A question for your Ombuds - Why should I trust you?

Dina Eisenberg and Chuck Doran, ISU Ombuds Team

 

Can I trust you?

That’s the question that most callers (or visitors) who contact us have on their minds.


Employees want reassurance

Some people even ask more directly – Are you going to tell anybody what I say?

Employees worry that if they tell the ombuds something it will go straight to their manager and they will be labeled as a troublemaker. They fear retaliation or termination if they’re not careful. Folks are understandably frustrated and skeptical.

Employees want to know if they can trust their ombuds to actually help them, not just side with their boss.


Employers need reassurance, too

Managers and supervisors ask the same questions. Are you going to turn into an employee advocate and take their side? Are you going to make things worse? Employers get concerned that the ombuds might reveal sensitive information that will be used against them or escalate the situation.

These are valid concerns especially when you know something is wrong and don’t know how to fix it. Perhaps there’s a failure to communicate or people are sending mixed messages. That’s where we come in – to help employees and employers gain clarity and manage challenging conversations and build communication skills, which are essential, especially during COVID.


Trust is transactional

How do ombuds inspire trust in the people who contact us? As humans, we learn to trust someone through a series of experiences with have with them, or past experiences in the same context. Here’s an example.

Have you ever had a valet park your car? Think about it. You hand over property worth tens of thousands of dollars to a perfect stranger. Why?

You see the podium with the pegboard of keys. The person is wearing a jacket that says valet on the back. You’re in front of your favorite restaurant who hired the valet company. These are all trust triggers. Indicators that you can trust this situation and act accordingly.

How do ombuds build trust with callers? We hand them the reigns. We explain the process of working with an ombuds so callers know that our discussion, and even the fact that they called, will be kept confidential. We won’t tell a soul unless we learn they plan to hurt someone, themselves, or commit a crime. Callers control:

  • when we meet
  • what we discuss
  • whether or not the ombuds has permission to talk with others about the situation
  • the outcome or next steps in the conversation
  • when the conversation ends

Our role is to help employees become more resourceful and to empower them to solve their own issues. People work better when they feel they have control over the work and work life.

You can trust your Ombuds to help you see things in a new light and find good solutions without judging you or breaking your confidence.


To learn more about the ombuds function at ISU, please visit https://www.mwi.org/isu-ombuds or book a time to meet with a member of the ISU ombuds team Dina Eisenberg (https://bookme.name/DinaEisenberg/isu-meeting) or Chuck Doran (https://calendly.com/chuckdoran/30min), even if it’s just to say hi!