June 16, 2020

Mary Rowe on What Employees Need Now

Rowe, a former Ombuds at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and adjunct professor at the Institute's School of Management, recently offered her thoughts on "one critical action or change that could improve the lives of working people in the United States during and after the COVID-19 pandemic." Not surprisingly, she said that employees need more say in the conditions they face in returning to work and that Ombuds are critical.

Here's an excerpt of the interview with Rowe and Robert McKersie, Professor Emeritus of Management at the MIT, published by Good Companies, Good Jobs:
Mary Rowe: COVID-19 and the murder of Mr. George Floyd have illuminated—like a lightning storm—the need for workers in every job classification to find safe, accessible, fair, and credible ways to express concerns within their organizations and seek help. We need effective conflict management systems in organizations, and every major system needs at least one safe, independent, neutral, confidential professional as an access point. It helps if there are people of color and women who serve as safe access points to the conflict management system. In addition, every major system needs competent, independent, fair, formal investigations, and the investigators should include women and people of color.

In the last three months, I have listened to more than 60 organizational ombuds from around the world. These ombuds serve organizations in all sectors, helping both their organizations and all of their constituents deal with workplace concerns. Many ombuds are working almost literally around the clock, with up to 40+ Zoom meetings a week, listening to employees and managers (and other groups as relevant).

Many workers at all levels, and especially employees and managers of color, have been afraid to seek help, and turn to ombuds offices—often in desperation. (Ombuds help their organizations deal with risk by helping identify, assess, and communicate about concerns. At the same time, ombuds help each of their constituents deal with risk by virtue of being neutral, confidential, and independent resources.)

Ombuds are doing their best to support individuals and groups to understand what resources—if any—are available to them and to develop options for dealing with their concerns. 
(GCGJ at MIT.)

Related posts: Mary Rowe, MIT Ombuds, to Retire; Mary Rowe Article in Negotiation Journal; Year-Long Study of U.S. Federal Ombuds Launches; Mary Rowe on Microinequities and Ombuds; Other Posts About Mary Rowe.

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