Frequently Asked Questions

Browse Frequently Asked Questions about DoDEA’s Organizational Ombuds service.

    The Ombudsman reports to the DoDEA Director. This reporting relationship was designed so that the Ombudsman has no other agenda other than trying to ensure fairness in Agency processes.

    Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a term that refers to a number of processes, such as mediation and facilitated dialogue that can be used to assist parties in resolving disputes. The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996 (ADRA) encourages the use of ADR by Federal agencies and defines ADR as "any procedure that is used to resolve issues in controversy, including but not limited to, conciliation, facilitation, mediation, fact finding, mini trials, arbitration, and use of Ombudsman, or any combination thereof." These techniques usually involve the use of a skilled third party neutral, and most are voluntary processes in terms of the decision to participate, the type of process used, and the content of the final agreement. Federal agency experience with ADR has demonstrated that the use of these techniques can result in more timely and more economical resolution of issues, more effective outcomes, and improved relationships.

    An Ombuds is an official appointed by an organization to receive concerns and resolve conflicts. The role of the Ombuds is to provide an independent, impartial, informal, and confidential service to help people resolve disputes or complaints with an organization. They also provide information and advice on policies and procedures and identify areas where improvements can be made. The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program is a method of resolving disputes outside of formal complaint processes. The Ombudsman is responsible for operating the DoDEA ADR/CM program. 

    No.  An ombuds works to manage conflict within an organization, whereas mediation is a specific process used for conflict resolution. Many ombuds are trained as mediators and often use mediation skills and techniques as one of many approaches to problem-solving and conflict management. Some ombuds write written agreements after parties have reached an agreement. However, in accordance with IOA Code of Ethics, the organizational ombuds engages informally with visitors and will not retain written records for confidentiality reasons. If a written agreement is reached, others in the organization, such as the HR department, may retain that document in a file.

    The mediator is neutral. In other words, he or she has no stake in the outcome of the mediation and does not have any power to make decisions that may bind either party. The role of the mediator is to facilitate communications between the parties and provide an environment where the parties have an opportunity to address their differences. The mediator uses consensus building skills and knowledge of negotiation to help the parties find ways to overcome any misunderstandings and reach a common understanding on issues. The mediator does not act as legal counsel nor provide legal advice to any party. Each party should consult an attorney or other professional if any question regarding the law, the content of a proposed agreement, or similar issues arise.

    With limited exception (e.g., intent to commit violence or court order), the mediation process is confidential regardless of the mediation outcome. The mediator is prohibited from discussing the mediation proceedings, testifying on anyone’s behalf concerning the mediation, or submitting a report on the substance of the discussions.

    The members of the OaRS program office help each visitor determine the focus of their concern, options for resolving the issue and prepares the individual to communicate effectively regarding his/her issue. In addition to meeting with visitors, the Ombuds helps senior agency leaders be more effective by sharing general trends, as long as the message is not contributed to any one visitor.

    The Ombuds is responsible for operation the agency ADR/CM program and reports to the DoDEA Director. This reporting structure allows them the freedom to surface concerns and protect confidentiality without fear of retribution. The Director recognizes and supports the independence of the Ombuds and allows it to function as an effective part of the governance of the Agency. The Ombuds are also bound by a Professional Code of Ethics that places upon them the responsibility of maintaining strict confidentiality regarding matters that are brought to their attention.

    The Department of Defense (DoD) has a policy in place to promote collaboration and coordination among its components regarding the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and conflict management practices. For more detailed information, you can refer to the official DoD Instruction 5145.05 on ADR and conflict management1. This policy underscores the importance of efficient and collaborative approaches to resolving disputes within the DoD.

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