Session 4 F

Something Wicked This Way Comes: Corrupt Leadership, the Ombuds, and the Tragedy of Macbeth

Time: Tuesday 1:00 PM – 2:10 PM

Presenter(s): David Rasch, University Ombuds Officer, UCSB – Learn more about this presenter by visiting the presenter page.

Level: Experienced


This workshop will be an exploration of a number of challenges that arise for ombuds in organizations that have corruption, ethical violations and/or illegal activity at the highest levels of leadership. As ombuds we often have knowledge of wrongdoing among top management through communication with visitors and colleagues, and we have to make decisions about how to best respond in our role. An ombuds may also need to be particularly thoughtful about how to support adherence to policy and law, remain neutral, avoid conflicts of interest, maintain the office’s reputation, and protect office funding when contending with reports of serious malfeasance among powerful leaders. In his famous tragedy Macbeth, Shakespeare brilliantly portrays the pain, fear, interpersonal turmoil, manipulation, paranoia, and political dynamics that emerge when crimes are committed at the top. In this interactive workshop, we will use Macbeth as a loose template for examining the forces and sticky situations an ombuds may have to contend with when addressing problems related to corrupt leadership. The presentation will include a slide deck presentation and work with scenarios in smaller groups to encourage sharing and creative thinking about these issues.

Learning Objectives

  1. Expand awareness of organizational dynamics of corrupt and unethical leadership, and how these problems show up in the ombuds office.
  2. Clarify the benefits and risks of various ombuds interventions related to corrupt and unethical leaders.
  3. Increase awareness of how unethical leadership can create stress for an ombuds office.
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