June 20, 2014

University of Michigan Ombuds Shares Lessons Learned

In two recent blog posts, Tom Lehker shares some of the lessons that he has learned through his work as has UM's Ombudsman for Students.  Most of these observations are relevant for mediators and Ombuds in other settings.  Here are the highlights:

  • The process of active listening...is the necessary groundwork of conflict management.
  • More information is almost always available; no one will ever have all the information.
  • In most every conflict, all involved have contributed to the situation at its current point, and all may find ways to contribute to resolution.
  • The ability to at least consider disputes from other perspectives can be immensely helpful.
  • Understanding another’s perspective is not the same as agreeing with it. Resolving conflict can come as easily from understanding as from agreement.
  • Disputes often arise from how individuals make sense of the actions of others — the stories we tell, the emotions we attach — and less from the actions themselves.
  • The problem may not be what is initially discussed.
  • Universities...are fraught with real and perceived power differentials...that can contribute to and exacerbate conflict. Sometimes addressing perceptions of power is an important step in conflict resolution.
  • Conflict is a gift that can improve how organizations function. This is a central aspect of the work of organizational ombuds, and it can also be true as others work through conflict.

(UM Ombuds Blog, Part 1, Part 2.)

Related posts:  University Of Michigan Names Ombuds for Students; University of Michigan Opens Search for Faculty Ombuds; University of Michigan Ombuds Launches Blog; Sexual Assault Report from University of Michigan Reaffirms Ombuds' Confidentiality; University of Michigan Ombuds Posts 2013 Annual Report.

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