Amber Stark

SIOP Ombuds Reflect on 1 Year into the Role

SIOP endeavors to be a welcoming, safe professional community for the I-O psychology profession. As part of this effort, the SIOP Anti-Harassment Policy calls for SIOP to operate an ombuds program to be of service to members, event attendees, and staff. The primary functions of SIOP Ombuds are offering advice that is informal, impartial, and independent; advising on options for informal resolution and formal complaint; explaining the complaint processes, and/or assisting with mediation.

SIOP Fellows Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Shoenfelt and Dr. Margaret (Peggy) Stockdale have served as SIOP Ombuds since January 2022, with their terms ending December 2025 and December 2024, respectively. Shoenfelt and Stockdale brought significant relevant experience but have also spent the past year gaining additional knowledge about the role, including participating in training and maintaining membership in the International Ombudsman Association (IOA), funded by SIOP.

“The IOA training was invaluable in learning the skills needed to serve as SIOP Ombuds. Acting as ombuds requires a neutral and informal perspective that differs from serving as an I-O expert in harassment or discrimination,” stated Shoenfelt.

Stockdale added, “The training further enlightened us on the critical role that ombuds play in all forms of organizational justice: procedural (helping to ensure that policies and procedures are enacted fairly), interpersonal (being a good listener and improving communication between affected parties), and distributive (helping to find win–win solutions, if relevant).”

Being the inaugural ombuds, Shoenfelt and Stockdale helped to shape the role throughout 2022, including recommending clarifying revisions to the SIOP Anti-Harassment Policy that were appreciatively adopted by the Executive Board.

The ombuds were available throughout the year in an on-call manner, taking “visits” (the official term used to describe an interaction between an ombuds as a person seeking assistance) whenever there was need.

Shoenfelt reminds members that “Peggy and I are available to the SIOP community to answer questions and offer advice. We can be contacted through confidential email at ombuds@siop.org. Feedback from visitors in 2022 indicated our conversations were insightful, informative, and quite helpful.”

Further, the ombuds ask the SIOP community to become familiar with the SIOP Anti-Harassment Policy and to make use of it as the primary mechanism for addressing inappropriate behavior, as opposed to doing so in survey responses, social media, or other informal channels that are not actionable by SIOP.

The work of the ombuds is confidential, and ombuds visits are not reported on to the membership. However, per the SIOP Anti-Harassment Policy, "a summary report of formal harassment complaints and their dispositions, removing all identifying details, will be made available to the SIOP membership annually." The 2022 report is now available behind log in for members to view.

The next recruitment period for a SIOP Ombuds may take place near the conclusion of Stockdale’s term in 2024. It will be at the discretion of the future Presidential Trio whether to issue open calls for volunteers for this role or to reappoint ombuds for additional terms.

Until then, Shoenfelt and Stockdale will continue their good, but quiet, work supporting the SIOP community through providing ombuds services. They welcome visitors who feel they have been treated inappropriately in the context of any SIOP activity. The ombuds’ contact information and the latest version of the SIOP Anti-Harassment Policy is available online.

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