Office of the Ombudsman

Confidential - Neutral - Independent - Informal


An organizational ombudsman (a gender-neutral term*) is an independent and neutral person who helps people within a particular organization to identify and informally resolve individual, group, and system-level concerns. Ombudsmen use their knowledge of conflict theory and organizational dynamics to identify underlying causes of problems and disputes -- and then provide tools and strategies to address them. Importantly, ombudsman do not define outcomes or take action without permission from people or groups with whom they consult.

The NIH Office of the Ombudsman helps all members of the NIH community to explore and assess options for addressing lab or workplace-related concerns, and provide them with tools and resources to navigate difficult situations and resolve them. We use a variety of conflict-resolution approaches, including negotiation, mediation, group facilitation, peer panels, coaching, and shuttle diplomacy.

The NIH Office of the Ombudsman is available to all NIH employees and contractors at every level.

NIH contractors may also consider consulting their contract supervisors and any support provided by the contract organization.

For the most part, yes.  To use official work time to visit the Employee Assistance Program, the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, or the NIH Office of the Ombudsman, you must first obtain approval from your supervisor.  We understand, however, that some employees may not wish to inform their supervisors they are visiting the Office of the Ombudsman.  We will work with you to find a time to meet that is outside your official work time, such as early in the morning, later in the afternoon, or at lunchtime.

NIH Employee Relations (ER) staff offer technical advice and assistance on all matters related to employee conduct, performance, and work-related medical concerns. ER staff serve as representatives for and advisors to management. ER specialists are available to conduct training sessions on a variety of topics, from leave and attendance management to preventing violence in the workplace. Occasionally, we refer managers to ER for assistance.

In general, EAP provides assistance with personal issues, such as stress, health concerns, substance abuse, anger management, or family concerns that may be affecting job performance. Although some issues handled by EAP and the NIH Office of the Ombudsman may overlap, ombudsmen provide conflict-resolution approaches to workplace issues and related policies and practices. We frequently refer people to EAP if we feel it is a more appropriate resource. And, if you provide consent, our offices sometimes consult with each other about a particular issue.

Yes, but speaking with us does not provide NIH with notice of your intent to file a complaint. You may come directly to an ombudsman with work or lab-related concerns, including concerns you believe may be a basis for a complaint of discrimination or harassment (an EEO complaint).

The Center for Cooperative Resolution is the larger entity that includes the Office of the Ombudsman and the Peer Resolution Program.