I just learned that my University is closing its Ombuds Office, to save resources in these tight times, and instead is spreading out its functions among various related offices (student complaints to Dean of Students Office; employee disputes to Human Resources, etc.). It seems to me that this economically-driven decision clearly undervalues dispute resolution. While those related offices are generally familiar with the subject matter of complaints, they are not trained in or equipped to use informal dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve these disputes in a quick, cost-efficient manner. Doesn’t seem so cost-effective a decision, in the long run, does it?
(ADR Prof Blog.)
Professor Gross is right on the money. The cost savings offered by Organizational Ombuds and other ADR programs is substantial. Unfortunately, only the costs are reflected in an organization's financial statement. The benefits--avoided litigation and improved climate--are hidden. The real mistake is assuming that other programs like HR, EEO, or EAP can fill in for an Ombuds. Although these programs may be familiar with the organization's culture, they cannot bring confidential, neutral, independent, and informal expertise to conflicts. Hopefully Ombuds programs will rebound with the economy and the growing acceptance of ADR.
Related post: Pace University Closing Ombuds Office.