Ombuds Office Quarterly Summary: April to June, 2022 Released | From the Ombuds

JUL. 21, 2022

The Ombuds Office has just released its Quarterly Summary covering the second quarter of 2022. This brief report reviews the work that was done in the office from April to June, 2022. I will summarize a few main observations here, and I encourage you to read the report if you would like to learn more.

The Ombuds Office serves the UNLV community in four main ways: by listening to those who visit the office; educating by helping them consider their options and facilitating workshops that encourage better conflict resolution; directing the university’s mediation practice, and provide information to campus leadership about systemic issues. In practice, about half of my time these days is spent planning, developing, and presenting workshops and other group programs, with the other half dedicated to one-on-one consultations with employees and students. For the former, I have been working more intensely on developing online content, both synchronous and asynchronous, that replicates the material covered in our in-person workshops.

The report primarily focuses on the individual consultations half of the office’s work. From that perspective, it has been a productive quarter, and one that saw a personal milestone for me: the completion of my first year of service as Ombuds. With a year of ombudsing under my belt, I’m able to see certain trends in the usage of the office, and am getting a sense for the seasons of the office. On the surface, there are some obvious patterns: in the run-up to and aftermath of the annual report procedure, for example, I had several questions about that process. Likewise, the release of the merit list spurred several consultations.

The other seasonal pattern that I’ve seen, particularly this quarter, has to do with who is using the office. Over the past year, academic faculty have been the largest users, collectively, of the office. In calendar 2021, for example, academic faculty were 37 percent of visitors, followed by administrative faculty (21 percent) and classified staff (15 percent). In the first quarter of 2022, that pattern generally held, with academic faculty at 38 percent, administrative faculty at 30 percent, and classified staff at 6 percent. In the second quarter, however, administrative faculty moved into the top spot (41 percent) followed by academic faculty (25 percent) and, with a large increase, classified staff (17 percent).

Greater outreach efforts to classified staff may be partly responsible for that increase, but it also seems likely that the departure of many academic faculty members from campus following the conclusion of spring semester led to them having a proportionally smaller share, although it is important to note that academic faculty have continued to use the office throughout the summer.

Contacts were steady, averaging just under 50 per month for the quarter. Overall, there were 140 total contacts for the quarter, which was less than the first quarter (165), but more than the fourth quarter of 2021 (130). I believe that both the shift in campus population and the seasonality of some issues (e.g., annual report concerns in the first quarter) share responsibility for the greater usage during the first quarter.

Demographically, most users of the office continue to be women (60 percent), with men and non-binary visitors making up the balance. The racial and ethnic identity of visitors continues to roughly match that of the university’s employee pool, evidence that the office remains a resource for all.

As in the first quarter, meeting with the Ombuds in person continued to be the most popular option, with 47 percent of visits taking place in our on-campus location (FDH-165). Thirty percent chose a remote meeting, with smaller numbers corresponding by phone, email, and chat. Note: I discourage the latter two, as they are not the best medium for a confidential discussion, but on some occasions, that channel works best for those seeking a quick conversation, usually as a prelude or follow-up to an in-person or remote meeting.

The concerns brought to the office in one-on-one consultations in the second quarter fell within the parameters of previous periods. Communication with supervisors (or subordinates) continued to be the top concern, with 47 percent of visitors reporting one. This was, by far, the most commonly-reported issue, with respect and treatment by supervisors coming in second, at 27 percent. Communication with peers was also a significant issue, suggesting that the organization still has some work to do in how we communicate with each other.

Visitors to the office also expressed concerns about the quality of services that their unit offered, either to students, external customers, or internal constituents, and compensation (including questions about the merit process and its execution). Climate and trust were also brought forward.

Concerns around diversity in evaluative relationships (e.g, perceptions of bias by a supervisor) and discrimination were surfaced at a higher level than during previous periods, which may reflect in an increasing comfort among those facing those issues with using the office. Thirteen and eleven percent of contacts, respectively, came to the Ombuds with bias- and discrimination-related concerns, suggesting that this is another area of concern across campus.

The overall picture from looking at the past three months of consultations is that we, as a group, still struggle with communication and respect; we have concerns about our compensation; and several of us believe that bias is a factor in how they work within the organization. If you have any concerns around these issues, know that you are not alone, and that raising these concerns helps provide a more complete understanding of the work that needs to be done. As an informal, confidential resource, the Ombuds Office can provide a “safe space” for discussing, with a neutral party, what you are facing, and for considering your options.

In addition to charting usage of the office by individuals, the quarterly report also offers a chance to showcase the workshops and other group programs that the Ombuds Office provides. These can be adapted for any size group, although the sweet spot is generally 10 to 20 participants in our interactive roleplay-based workshops. We also customize the scenarios used, so that groups can practice conflict resolution techniques in a fictional environment with some similarity to their work area. Typically, the instructional portions of the workshop are interspersed with roleplaying, which keeps participants engaged. In addition to offering workshops through the Faculty Center and Human Resources Professional Development program this fall, we would be happy to customize one or more sessions for your group.

If you would like to discuss a workshop, or talk privately and confidentially about any work-related concern, please make an appointment with the Ombuds. Our door is open.

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