CAHSS Faculty Articles

Ombuds and Conflict Resolution Specialists: Navigating Workplace Challenges in Higher Education


0000-0002-7289-5670, 0000-0003-0031-0132

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Journal of the International Ombudsman Association

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Higher education institutions navigate a number challenges, but managing interpersonal workplace dynamics is critical for the success of any university. This article highlights a growing trend to enhance administrative capacity through the implementation of conflict resolution specialists that address employee issues, provide educational outreach within the university system, and serve a systemic review function that helps administrators understand employee trends and issues. Eleven universities were profiled and the research illustrates how universities pragmatically designed a fit for such a role, what the ombuds and conflict resolution directors’ top functions were, and the value created by their work. The top three employee issues identified affirm the need for informal conflict resolution channels because they exemplify typical workplace conflicts rooted in evaluative relationships and its accompanying emotions, and therefore do not meet the standard criteria for more formal and rightbased grievance procedures traditionally employed by Human Resources and legal departments. The purpose of ombuds and specialists also appeared to be more in alignment with the universities’ stated values and a way to demonstrate commitment to the quality of work-life for its employees. The authors conclude that expanding the evaluation methods would help make the business case for the use and expansion of conflict resolution options, especially for organizational ombuds.



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