Role of the Ombudsperson in an organization

The word “ombudsman” comes from Norse and Swedish roots, and generally means “mediator”. Following the empowerment of women in recent times, this word is now elevated to “ombudsperson”.

As mentioned earlier, an ombudsperson is literally a mediator in an organization.

They are the point of contact for anyone in the company with a grievance or a complaint about unethical practices, misappropriations, sexual or any other form of harassment and a slew of other complaints. An ombudsperson is usually:

  • Somebody who is in the higher ranks of the organization
  • A person who knows and comprehends company policies well
  • Someone with little or no influence other than the title conferred on him or her
  • An individual who is affable and approachable

Some of the things that come within the perview of the ombudsperson are:

  • Unethical practices such as bribery and misappropriation of funds and resources by superiors being reported by a junior
  • Harassment of any sort in the company where authority is being exploited or within a team itself
  • Issues with compensation and remuneration that have not been addressed appropriately by the finance or HR department
  • Advising the company on changing policies with regard to employee satisfaction or retention.

In the current corporate scenario, it is however seen that employees try to exploit this benefit as they tend to go to the ombudsperson for trivial issues like a manager chiding someone(within corporate norms) for non performance or for that matter a manager trying to give exhaustive feedback to a nonperforming employee. But with the ombudsperson selected being a knowledgeable and just person, organizations or for that matter managers really need not fear when they are adhering to set protocols.

While this is a cursory outline of the role of an ombudsperson in an organization, the role of an ombudsperson can be quite flexible to include many other functions. It depends largely on the organization itself. What is important to remember is that having an Ombudsperson in an organization speaks tons of the concern that organization has for their employees. As a neutral and impartial negotiator who has the interests of employees and the management on an even keel, the ombudsperson is a key figure in the harmonious functioning of an organization.

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