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A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the summer and fall 2021 semesters.

Ombudsperson

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The Office of the Ombudsperson (ombuds) is a safe place for faculty and staff to talk in a confidential and neutral environment about concerns such as as a conflict with a colleague or supervisor, the need for a difficult conversation or any work situation that you’re unsure about how to handle. The ombuds will work with you to develop effective options for addressing concerns and resolving conflicts. To make an appointment to discuss your concerns with the ombuds, set up a meeting via email.

You may contact the ombuds to discuss a wide variety of issues, such as:

  • Desire to improve working relations with a colleague or your supervisor
  • Concern about the application of college policies and procedures
  • Difficulty in giving or receiving feedback, including performance appraisals
  • Concern about the behavior of a colleague
  • An ethical dilemma that has arisen at work
  • Planning for a difficult conversation with a colleague or supervisor
  • Concern about safety or other aspects of your work environment
  • Curiosity about having a "facilitated conversation" or mediation process with a colleague or supervisor

The first thing the ombuds will do is take the time to get to know you, learning about your background, your department and the people with whom you work. All discussions with the ombuds are completely confidential, except where there is risk of significant, imminent harm. The ombuds complies with the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

Next steps involve exploring your specific situation. This might include reviewing such issues as:

  • A brief chronology of the events that have caused concern
  • Your perspective on this, as well as your sense for the perspective of other involved parties—including the needs and goals of all parties
  • Efforts made so far to resolve the issues
  • Your priorities, both personally and professionally—clarity about these can help you make good decisions about potential actions

Together, we will work to fully understand the important issues present and then brainstorm about options and solutions. In many instances, people benefit from jointly developing a plan for a discussion they will then have with the involved parties. It is not unusual to have more than one meeting about issues that are complex.

The ombuds is not responsible for:

  • Conducting investigations. If you feel you have a matter that may require investigation, please contact Human Resources, the Office for Equity and Inclusion, or other formal channels at the college. 
  • Establishing policies. There may be times, however, when the Ombuds may suggest that the college consider a different approach to a policy.
  • Getting involved in formal processes, such as grievance procedures or legal matters.

Smith College Links

Articles & Tips

Following are links to helpful websites about conflict resolution:

Training Links

Training on improving your ability to work with and resolve conflict—available through LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com).  

You access this by going to the Smith College Portal and clicking on the link for LinkedIn Learning in the left column. NOTE: if you do not already have a LinkedIn account, you can set  one up on the LinkedIn site. Sign in as needed for the site.

To access a list of online, self-paced classes related to conflict resolution, enter the word “conflict” in the search box at the top of the main page and press the search icon. A good one to start with is called “Improving Your Conflict Competence.”

 


About the Ombudsperson

Mark Stephens, Smith College Ombudsperson

Michael Stephens

Michael Stephens served as ombuds for Amherst College’s staff and faculty from September 2015 to August 2018, and he joined the Smith community as ombuds in November 2016. Prior to beginning his role at Amherst and then at Smith, he had many years of experience in human resources functions, employee relations, conflict resolution, ombudsperson services, facilitation and employee counseling. He worked for more than 25 years in various corporate settings, providing these services to employees and managers at all levels. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Colorado and a master’s in business administration from New York University.


Contact

Office of the Ombudsperson
Smith College
Lilly Hall B-4
Northampton, MA 01060
Phone: 413-585-7953
Email: mjstephens@smith.edu

All meetings are being conducted remotely, with Mondays and Wednesdays being the preferred days.
Please email to arrange for a time to meet.