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Integrated Conflict Management Systems (ICMS) and the Organizational Ombuds’ Role Therein

This page includes articles (from 1980 to the present, in reverse chronological order) about conflict management system (CMS) design. Taken together, the elements of a well-designed CMS provide sturdy support for orderly and constructive “voice” for every person who works in an organization. A systems approach helps an organization manage risk by providing each constituent with options for dealing with unacceptable behavior or offering new ideas. That is, by reducing the risk a member of the organization faces when speaking up about unacceptable behavior or suggesting new ideas, the organization will be more likely to have the information it needs to manage its own risks. Topics include:

» provision of both informal and formal options—for all employees and managers and other constituents—to raise any work-related concern;

» the need for a choice of options about most concerns, with multiple access points for complainants;

» the importance of providing a zero-barrier option in the CMS (such as an organizational ombuds) to reduce the risks that members of the organization (including bystanders) may face in raising concerns and good ideas;

» a self-help guide for ombuds office constituents (including bystanders) about how to consider taking action about harassment, abuse, and bullying;

» coordination of the informal and formal complaint-handling options provided by various organizational structures in an integrated conflict management system (ICMS);

» an example of an informal coordination structure (“Portia”) for an ICMS; and

» ideas about how to analyze the functions provided in an existing conflict management system by various offices and line management.

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  • Mary Rowe

    Adjunct Professor, Work and Organization Studies

    MIT Sloan School of Management

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