Whistle-blowing has a long history of creating short-term lose-lose situation, even if there is a long-term gain in operational course-correction and new oversight and regulation. Employers may end up spending millions in legal fees, and the whistle-blowers may take a hit to their personal or professional reputations.
Some companies however, have created a new role to help mitigate the risk of whistle-blowing, and increase employee’s sense of well-being overall, an Organizational Ombudsman.
The job of an Ombudsman is typically to investigate wrong-doings and counsel those with grievances. An Organizational Ombudsman is tasked with both jobs, but also plays an important role in terms of hierarchy. The Ombudsman is outside of the normal chain-of-command, and therefore is inherently neutral to individual positions. However, as an advocate for what is best for both the company and the employee, the Ombudsman will help alleviate stress for the employee, mitigate risk for the organization, and bear some of the burden of the revelation by conducting an internal investigation.
Compounding the need for this role is the current breadth of generational issues employers must deal with. Adding an Organizational Ombudsman can help companies embrace a diverse workforce, because employees have an objective sponsor who will listen with compassion and advocate on their behalf. This is a critical step before deciding if the next course of action is simply some personal counseling, or engaging Human Resources in conflict-resolution.
For an overview of the rise of the Organizational Ombudsman, read Office Disputes Get a New Referee by Audrey Quinn. She includes a reference to the book The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles, and Operations – A Legal Guide, written by Chuck Howard.