UNLV Ombuds Office Releases 2023 2nd Quarter Report | From the Ombuds

One of my favorite things to do as UNLV’s Ombuds is to lead interactive workshops. Our office offers over a dozen different workshops on a variety of topics relating to communication and conflict resolution.  As the headline implies, these workshops are designed to help participants develop interpersonal skills in a way that is interactive and, hopefully, interesting.

As Ombuds, I work with visitors from all over campus. While each case is unique, communication difficulties form the root of many issues that visitors bring with them. As reflected in our most recent quarterly report, 53 percent of visitors had an issue that centered on perceived poor communication with their supervisor (or direct report), while an overlapping 30 percent described problems with peer communications (the two groups aren’t mutually exclusive; some had issues with both supervisors and peers, some with only one category).

By any measure, more than half of Ombuds Office visitors are coping with poor communication, which is why we offer several workshops aimed at improving listening and being heard. Here are four that I would like to highlight:

  • Listening Thoughtfully—This workshop dissects the act—and art—of listening, helping participants examine how they listen, breaking down the components of meaningful listening, and guiding them into listening with intention.
  • Interpersonal Communication: Say What You Mean—This is the other half of “Listening Thoughtfully,” and helps participants to better appreciate how to communicate more meaningfully, both in person and when online.
  • Difficult Conversations—This is a popular one. Whether it is delivering a critical performance review, sharing bad news, or even breaking up, people struggle with difficult conversations (which is why they are difficult). This workshop examines the elements of a difficult conversation and offers a guide for making it less painful and more productive.
  • Clearer Communication with Your Supervisor—I put this one together after seeing that supervisory communication was a frequent issue. It is designed for employees who are struggling with speaking with their supervisor. If there is demand, I would eagerly put together the other half of that workshop: clearer communication with your direct reports.

We have workshop on other topics. One of the biggest crowd pleasers is about conflict styles, a concept developed by Thomas and Kilmann in the 1970s that still has wide currency today. Before our meeting, participants take an online quiz that tells them their own conflict style. After exploring the concept of conflict styles and discussing their utility, we engage in two role play activities that allow participants to experiment with how they react to conflict.

The interpersonal aspect of Ombuds workshops goes beyond their subject matter—a big part of the workshops is to get participants talking and working together. And that also plays into the interactive component. I get it, most of us dread being lectured at (strangely enough, even people who lecture for a living might find themselves in that group). So, as a rule, I don’t lecture in workshops. Sure, I’ll mention a few key points, but for me the real learning happens when participants are able to interpret and apply that information.

Interpretation and application can happen in group discussions, role play exercises, or other non-sitting and staring activities. Sometimes, we even play games. The key, in my mind, is to keep things interesting. If checking your phone seems like a better use of your time that participating in a workshop, the leader is doing something very wrong. That’s why my modus operandi is to keep our workshops informative, energetic, and even a little unpredictable.

Hopefully, now that you’ve learned a little about what happens at an Ombuds workshop, you’re at least a tiny bit interested in attending one. You can see a list of Ombuds workshops here. I won’t say it’s a complete list, because we are constantly tweaking old workshops and adding new ones in response to demand. The great news is that, no matter the size of your group, you can ask me to lead a workshop for you and I will enthusiastically deliver. Seriously—our office has done workshops for groups as small as four and as large as three hundred. However large or small the group, we will scale the content to make it as engaging as possible for everyone.

How can you “order” a workshop? It’s not quite as easy as summoning a Lyft or Uber, but it’s getting close. Simply reach out to the Ombuds Office by emailing ombuds@unlv.edu or calling (702) 895-1823. Let us know 1) which topic you are most interested in 2) how big the group is and 3) when you would like the workshop. If you’re not sure which workshop you would like, or would like something customized for your group, let us know—we are happy to help.

Most importantly, I would like to stress that an Ombuds workshop can be a fun team-building activity, a way for co-workers to get to know each other better and build a shared language of conflict resolution. I don’t see workshops as a means for addressing deficits, but rather a launching pad for building skills. Everyone who attends brings valuable experience and personal perspective, which I not only appreciate, but rely on.

If you can’t get together even a small number of people in your area to invite me to lead a workshop, you still can participate. I will be leading two workshops this December as part of the Human Resources Professional Development series, so check RebeLearn for more information.

Of course, when I’m not presenting workshops I still have ample time to meet with visitors one-on-one to discuss their concerns. Whether you are a student, faculty member, or other UNLV employee, the Ombuds Office has many resources available to help you through any conflict or communication issue you might be facing. If you are having an issue and are uncertain where to go, it is an excellent zero-barrier first stop. You have nothing to lose and quite a bit to gain.

If you would like to talk off-the-record and confidentially about any work- or campus-related concern, please make an appointment with the Ombuds. Our door is always open.

Spread the love