Just Released! Ombuds Office 2022 Third Quarterly Report |  From the Ombuds

OCT. 31, 2022

Last week, the Ombuds Office released its third quarterly report, which contains a wealth of information about the work the office has been doing in recent months.

The most basic question the report answers is, “Is the office getting used?” The response is a definitive “yes.” From July 1 to September 30, 2022, the Ombuds had 137 contacts, or meetings, with 94 unique visitors. Year to date, the Ombuds has had 441 contacts with 285 unique visitors.

The third quarter number represent an increase over the second-quarter ones, which may reflect the continuing outreach the office does (more on that below) or the fact that many academic faculty were absent from campus for much of that quarter.

So far, the first quarter of 2022 continues to be the high-water mark for unique visitors and contacts, with 163 and 112, respectfully. As this is the period when faculty are undergoing their annual evaluations, and, in this year, there were many questions about the merit process, which is understandable. And, in time, we will be able to tell if the quarterly fluctuations are part of regular seasonal patterns.

Who exactly came to see the Ombuds in the third quarter? Interestingly, the trend of more administrative faculty than academic faculty, which first appeared in the second quarter, continued. In both, administrative faculty represented 40 percent of all contacts, a reversal of the earlier trend, where academic faculty had about that share of contacts. In the past three months, 31 percent of contacts were academic faculty and 15 percent were classified staff, with the balance split between administrative and academic faculty leaders (vice presidents, deans, and chairs), students, letters of appointment, and others.

The demographics of visitors to the Ombuds Office continue to reflect those of UNLV as a whole. Continuing an ongoing trend, women outnumbered men by 65 percent to 35 percent. In regards to race, 53 percent of visitors identified as white, 23 percent as black, 15 percent as “other” (including multiracial), and 9 percent as Asian, with 13 percent identifying as of Hispanic ethnicity.

As it has since its inception, the Ombuds Office continues to offer a variety of options for visitors to meet with the Ombuds. In this quarter, in-person and remote visits were tied at 42 percent each. Phone only was a distant third at 9 percent, with email and chat making up the balance. One note, which may be getting repetitive but bears repeating, is that email is not an appropriate vehicle for a confidential conversation, which may be why so few contacts are held that way.

To sum up, the office is being used by a diverse group of faculty, staff, and students.

Whether the office is being used might be the basic question, but the most important thing most people want to know is why people are coming to the office. Using the International Ombuds Association’s Uniform Reporting Categories, it is possible to track the general issues that people are seeking to address. Visitors can report one or multiple concerns in a single meeting.

As has been the case for over a year, the top issue continues to be communication with one’s immediate supervisor or direct report, with 42 percent of all visitors raising this issue, followed by respect and treatment from one’s supervisor (26 percent). Communication with one’s colleagues, change management, organizational priority setting, disrespectful treatment by one’s colleagues, and departmental climate were other issues raised frequently. Reported harassment and discrimination remains among the top ten concerns brought to the office.

While many visits revolve around common issues like communication, respect, and discrimination, there are a multitude of concerns raised to the Ombuds—59 separate ones, to be precise. To give an idea of the less common issues visitors brought to the office this quarter, they include: payroll issues, the physical working environment, the behavior of service providers, organizational values and culture, and the privacy of information.

In addition to hearing concerns and helping visitors sort through their options in one-on-one consultations, the Ombuds Office is committed to addressing the areas of perpetual concern on campus (like communication) through workshops and other group activities.

And the office has been busy with workshops, presenting a total of 24 throughout the year. In addition, the Ombuds made 18 presentations to units explaining the nature of the office and its work.

The office can put together a workshop for any size group on a variety of topics, mostly dealing with communication and conflict resolution. All workshops are highly interactive, with small group discussions, fictional scenarios, and roleplay activities integral parts of the learning. The goal is to share new concepts and discuss new techniques in a friendly, low-key, and respectful environment.

In addition to workshops and presentations, the Ombuds has led six facilitated discussions with campus units so far this year. There are different types of facilitated discussion: in the most basic, the Ombuds or trained mediators working under the auspices of the office simply walk the group through a pre-determined agenda. In the second, the Ombuds meets with all participants beforehand and uses their feedback to create an agenda for the discussion. Both types can be assist a group in having productive conversations about critical issues such as group norms, office culture, and strategic goals.

Whether it is with a group or individually, the Ombuds Office served dozens of UNLV faculty, staff, and students. You can read more details of the office’s recent work in the 2022 Third Quarter Report itself.

So remember, whether you are a student, faculty member, or other UNLV employee, the Ombuds Office has many resources available to help you through any stage of a conflict. If you are having an issue and are uncertain where to go, it is an excellent zero-barrier first stop.  If you would like to talk privately and confidentially about any work- or campus-related concern, please make an appointment with the Ombuds.

Looking back at the latest quarter, it is apparent that the office was busy. It is equally apparent that there is much, much more work to be done. And it can get done, one relationship and one group at a time. If you feel like things can be better and would like some help getting there, you know who to call (or email).

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