UCAR establishes Ombuds Office to assist staff

Staff now have a new avenue for resolving work-related conflicts and discussing sensitive issues: the UCAR Ombuds Office.

UCAR president Rick Anthes announced the office's establishment on October 16. "We believe that this is an important 'best practice' in an organization of our size and scope," he told staff. "It gives another avenue to deal with important issues, in addition to our normal policy options."

Wendy Abshire (COMET) and Dick Valent (CISL) have been appointed by the Board of Trustees out of several nominees to serve as the organization's first ombuds. Both have worked at UCAR for more than 25 years in a variety of roles and responsibilities.

As ombuds, Wendy and Dick function as neutral, confidential, informal, independent resources for employees and visitors seeking guidance regarding problems, issues, or concerns related to their employment. They can listen, explain policies, answer questions, make informal inquiries and referrals, offer resolution options, and facilitate discussions independently and impartially.

Because the ombuds do not report to management, talking to Wendy and Dick does not constitute formal notice to UCAR. Without breaching confidentiality, Wendy and Dick can report to the Board of Trustees on trends or issues. They can also make recommendations for policy changes or other procedures that may enhance the organization.

Services of the ombuds supplement but do not replace the Delphi service as well as other more formal UCAR processes, such as the organization's Problem Resolution Policy. The ombuds cannot conduct formal investigations or mediation; change rules, policies, or procedures; act as advocates in disputes; give legal advice; sanction individuals; or disclose information provided in confidence except to address imminent risk of serious harm.

Staff may contact the ombuds by e-mail or phone, but those concerned about privacy are recommended not to use e-mail because its privacy cannot be guaranteed. Meetings are by appointment only. More information is available on the website.