Independence – A Central Tenet of the Work of an Ombuds

by Gregory K. Stephens, Ph.D., AOM Ombuds

On occasion, when faced with knotty disputes, I have shared the issues with a long-time mediation partner (now retired) and asked for feedback and creative insight. Part of the reason those conversations were so valuable to me was because, though she was insightful, wise, and careful, she had (as we say in Texas) “no dog in the hunt.” That is, she was an independent resource, one who I could depend upon to be thoughtful and unbiased, and who would not be obligated to share my challenges with someone in authority.

This, at its core, describes the first of the Standards of Practice under which we operate as Ombuds for the Academy of Management — Independence. We are independent from other organizational entities, such as the Ethical Adjudication Committee. We do not hold other positions within the AOM that might compromise our independence. Within the constraints of the other IOA Standards of Practice, Confidentiality, Neutrality, and Informality (to be discussed in our next blog post) we have discretion over whether or how to act in response to  an individual’s concern or trending issues of concern to multiple individuals. In short, we do not have pressures to reveal information or act in any obligatory way, outside of our concern for the individual.

In practical terms, what this means is that we can help our “visitors” navigate the policies and procedures of the AOM organization, see their issues through different eyes, explore different ways of handling their concerns, and even deal with both parties in a dispute (again, acknowledging and abiding by expectations for confidentiality, impartiality, and neutrality). Because we are independent from formal disciplinary mechanisms, we are not obligated to reveal information shared in conversations with our visitors, nor are we expected to share individually identifiable issues with others in the AOM hierarchy.

Independence of the Ombuds in any organization is important to avoid both the reality and appearance of divided loyalties. As Luis Piñero,  University of Wisconsin-Madison Assistant Vice Provost for Workforce Equity and Diversity, said, “Ombuds cannot be seen as extensions of the power structure. If they are not perceived as independent, people may not seek them out.” Our whole goal is to help our visitors to find ways to resolve their concerns and disputes, with a goal of avoiding the blunt instrument of formal authority. Achieving that goal would be difficult or impossible without independence.

We (the AOM Ombuds) are here to help, and want to serve the dispute resolution needs of the members of the Academy of Management. We commit to abide by the Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association, including independence, and the Academy of Management has likewise committed to those standards. If you have questions or if you are in need of our services, please reach out to us at Ombuds@aom.org.

AOM, Political Positions & Realities

In this tumultuous political climate, many professional associations and research institutes are finding themselves in a challenging situation. The AOM is not immune. Indeed, the global nature of the Academy means we have a number of complex dilemmas to consider, as well as practical problems associated with travel to the annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia next summer.

The Academy’s Executive Committee advanced a proposal to amend the policy on political stands:

“On February 5th, the Executive Committee unanimously approved an amendment to allow stands on an exceptional basis. This amendment was approved on February 10th in an extraordinary meeting of the Board of Governors. The AOM will take a stand when our purpose, existence, or function as an organization is threatened. The policy will be embargoed for 90 days while a task force explores how the policy will be elaborated and implemented (please see below for additional information on both the policy and the task force).”

In the meantime, it is important that leaders and members know what can and can’t be said and done in the name of the Academy of Management.  Please take a moment to review updated answers to frequently asked questions.

The mission of the AOM is to “To build a vibrant and supportive community of scholars by markedly expanding opportunities to connect and explore ideas.” Our Code of Ethics reminds us of of our commitment to “respect the dignity and worth of all people” and points out that “Academy members have a duty to consider their responsibilities to the world community.” Standing for our values and principles is easy when they aren’t tested!

We are also exploring a range of member suggestions, such as increased reliance on web-based technologies and video-conferencing. If you are directly affected by the ban, or you have suggestions for other ways in which we can support and enable scholarly participation by affected scholars, contact Taryn Fiore at tfiore@aom.org.

 

Journal editors – unregulated and unmonitored

HI Friends

I’ve been quiet for a couple of months – summer schedule and all – and wanted to get back to the blogosphere. I’ll try and be more diligent.

Many strange things have been brought to my attention over the summer, but I thought I would start with a more personal experience. That way, if anyone want’s to comment, at least one side of the equation is available.

Last spring we sent a paper in to an unnamed FT50 journal. Normally, these top journals reply within three months – at least – that has been my experience until now, for the most part. One consequence of the enhanced competitive environment is that journal editors seem to invite submissions by promising faster turn around.

In any case, a full six months went by, without hearing from the journal. As a result, I contacted the editor directly.  The editor immediately responded, on a Friday,  by saying “I should have contacted him earlier” and that he would ‘get on it’. By Monday, we had our rejection, along with only one review, and a note from the editor saying he was unable to get a second review. He didn’t even bother adding his own comments to the rejection letter. Needless to say, the first review was not very helpful, but that is beside the point. This little exchange once again brings me to question the authority, transparency, and lack of professionalism sometime exhibited by editors of even top journals. One cannot help wondering, given the importance of these gate-keeping roles, how it happens that we have processes that appear cavalier, with no recourse regarding accountability, transparency, appeal, or arbitration. In this particular case, my career does not hinge on the outcome – but I must report – in many cases where individual careers are in jeopardy, I have more often observed arrogance than compassion.

So, this brings me to raise an important question – and I must highlight – this question does NOT apply to Academy of Management journals, where transparency and fairness seems to be much more institutionalized.

Who appoints these people as editors?

Who governs their behavior?

Why do we allow autocratic and incompetent behavior by editors, even of prestigious journals?

In my view, we have a serious professional need for an equivalent of ‘rate my professor’ for academic journals. Such an idea was posed a few years ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Robert Deaner who called for a “consumer reports for journals”. We could monitor and evaluate the review process, the editorial process, the time taken, and other aspects of peer review. If anyone is interested in starting such an activity, please let me know – as I think we really need some monitoring out there.

Happy Research!

Benson

 

Let’s explore ethics in Anaheim!

ethics clipartThe AOM annual meeting is just around the corner. If you are like me, you are sifting through the ginormous digital program to constructyou a personal schedule– and hoping it will require you to run around too much in order to attend the sessions that interest you.

If ethics is a topic of interest, perhaps this compilation of sessions will help you find the ones you want to attend:

Sessions about Ethics 
AOM 2016 Annual Meeting Custom Program for Ethics

Of course, I hope you’ll join us in the Ethics Education Committee Open Forum sessions on Saturday! All are welcome: students, practitioners, new and experienced academics from any Division.

These Open Fora give us a chance to discuss issues and concerns related to our membership in the Academy of Management as well as in our academic and professional lives. The Ethics Education Committee truly listens to the dilemmas and great examples shared in the sessions and we use the notes to guide our activities in the coming year.

Open Forum on Ethical Scholarship
Program Session: 423 | Submission: 18385 | Sponsor(s): (AAA)
Scheduled: Saturday, Aug 6 2016 4:00PM – 5:30PM at Anaheim Marriott in Elite Ballroom 1

Facilitators Janet Salmons, Deborah Mullen, and Charles Fenner will catalyze discussion about ethical dilemmas in research, instruction, and publication arenas. 

The 2nd forum will focus on global issues in Academy membership and our field. Luckily, no running is involved between our sessions!

Open Forum on Global Ethics for Business & Academia
Program Session: 454 | Submission: 18386 | Sponsor(s): (AAA)
Scheduled: Saturday, Aug 6 2016 5:45PM – 7:15PM at Anaheim Marriott in Elite Ballroom 1

Special guests: Jonas Haertle, Head, Principles for Responsible Management Education Sec & Academic Affairs, UN Global Compact Office, United Nations

and

Mark Meaney, Chairperson, North America Chapter
Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME)

PDW “Why Can’t We All Just Get along? Practical Conflict-Management Techniques and the Role of the Ombudspersons”

neutral

by Mary Sue Love, Ph.D.
AOM Ombuds Committee

In a recent blog post from AOM Ombuds Greg Stephens, he introduced the Ombuds service and promised to speak to each of the International Ombudsman Association principles.  As another AOM Ombuds, today, I want to talk about being neutral and impartial, particularly our “responsibility to consider the legitimate concerns and interests of all individuals affected by the matter” and our commitment to help “develop a range of responsible options to resolve problems” (See: https://www.ombudsassociation.org/IOA_Main/media/SiteFiles/IOA_Standards_of_Practice_Oct09.pdf).

Last month, my son’s roommate dropped by, and as she was venting about his lack of communication, I heard myself say, ‘you won’t be roommates for very long if you approach the situation like that.’  Needless to say, that was not neutral or impartial…and it ended up causing even more stress for my son as she went home angry, not just at him, but now at me too!

Last week, she dropped by again with a new list of complaints. This time, I didn’t scold her or tell her how to manage my son.  I asked questions about her perspective, and then about his.  Two marvelous things happened; first she didn’t get angry and storm out (good for my son).  But more importantly, after her feelings and concerns were acknowledged, she was able to be a bit more reflective about his perspective, what he might be thinking and feeling in the situation. That’s exactly why Ombuds need to be neutral and impartial.

It’s our job to help you understand:

  • the situation,
  • your reaction,
  • the other party’s stance,
  • and find a well-rounded perspective with possibilities for resolving your dispute.

My son and his roommate are still struggling to find a resolution to their very different living styles.  But, this time, I behaved differently.  I put on my Ombuds hat, I didn’t judge, I didn’t lead.  Will it resolve their dispute?  No, of course not.  But, her new perspective just might give them a chance!

Stone, Patton, and Heen call this the ‘third story,’ in their book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, or a perspective that both sides can agree on.  While it’s work, it’s work worth doing. Here’s a bit more on the concept: http://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/conflict-resolution/telling-the-third-story/.

As a matter of fact, we’ll use this and many other concepts in our PDW “Why Can’t We All Just Get along? Practical Conflict-Management Techniques and the Role of the Ombudspersons” in Anaheim on August 6th at 3:15 PM (Hilton Anaheim, Catalina 4) http://my.aom.org/program2016/SessionDetails.aspx?sid=11002. We’ll share and practice helpful conflict management techniques and offer a Q & A on the role of the ombuds.

And, if you need help with your roommate, or if you just like the artwork above (which is theirs), here’s one group of students’ work on roommate/relationship conflict http://stopthefight.org/?page_id=64.

Ethics: What is expected of AOM Members?

ethics-cropped-1024x555Did you realize that as a member of the Academy of Management you “agree to uphold and promote the principles of the ‘AOM_Code_of_Ethics’ and to adhere to its enforced ethical standards”? Do you know what principles and standards you agreed to uphold?

Like most people, you probably think the Code of Ethics exists as a reference to consult when things go horribly wrong.   Understandably, studying the AOM Code of Ethics is probably at the very bottom of an extremely long to-do list.

So why would you read and think about the AOM Code of Ethics? First, yourightandwrongdecisions might want to know what the AOM expects of you as a member, and what you can expect of other members. Are there specific ethical guidelines you should know about, as related to participation in activities in your Divisions, committees, the annual conference or other AOM events? What about guidelines for your professional life outside of AOM– as a researcher, instructor, consultant, or as a student?

Second, you might want to know where you can find help or answers when you encounter ethical dilemmas. Who should you go to within the Academy? What are the roles of the Ethics Committee including the Ombuds Committee, the Adjudication Committee, as well as the Ethics Education Committee (EEC)?

Finally, you might want to know what is contained in the current Academy of Management Code of Ethics, so you can provide input on periodic revisions. How can we make sure this Code is up-to-date and relevant given emerging dilemmas in our world?

The Ethics Education Committee is here to help. At the coming Annual Meeting in Anaheim we can offer the following types of sessions for your meeting, Division Consortium or Committee:

  1.  Presentation and Discussion: A 60-minute interactive session on business and professional ethics, values and the AOM Code of Ethics.
  2. Overview and Q & A: A 30-minute introduction to the AOM Code of Ethics, who does what at the Academy in the ethics area, including the role of the Ombuds.
  3.  Discussant: An EEC member can attend an ethics session you are offering, and answer questions as needed about the AOM Code, Ombuds roles etc.

Please contact EEC Chair Janet Salmons (jsalmons[at]vision2lead.com or with the contact form below) to discuss ways the EEC can help ensure that new and returning members your area of the Academy are familiar with the principles and standards they agreed to uphold.

The EEC will also be offering these opportunities for discussion at the Annual Meeting:

  • Open Forum on Ethical Scholarship on Saturday, August 06 from 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM Anaheim Marriott, Elite Ballroom 1.
  • Open Forum on Global Ethics for Business & Academia on Saturday, August 06 from 5:45 PM – 7:15 PM at the Anaheim Marriott, Elite Ballroom 1.
  • Committee Meeting: If you are interested in joining us, our (open) meeting will be held Sunday, August 07, from 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM at the Anaheim Marriott, Elite Ballroom 1.