Informal Options for Addressing a Concern

The Institute encourages the resolution of complaints through the informal resolution process.

Human Resources and the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response (IDHR) office often recommend informal resolution as a first step in MIT’s complaint resolution process. Informal complaint resolution is often quicker than the formal complaint process, less disruptive to the working or education environment, involves fewer people, and generally helps preserve working or educational relationships.

If you try an informal approach and it does not successfully resolve your concerns, you can later file a Complaint (for alleged violations of Conduct Policies) or a Request for Review of a Non-Conduct Policy (for alleged violations of other MIT employment policies).


Both HR and the IDHR office can facilitate the informal resolution process, which is flexible and encompasses a full range of possible options and appropriate outcomes. For example, HR/IDHR may propose solutions, facilitate communication of proposals between the parties; facilitate direct discussions between the parties, or use other techniques such as mediation with a neutral party. In some cases, informal resolution may be led by HR professionals in the DLCI, by supervisors, or by others. Find more detail on informal options below.

Appropriate outcomes may include separating the parties; conducting targeted educational and training programs; or having a party agree to participate in counseling or conflict resolution programs.

The direct approach

This option means you directly approach the individual who you believe has violated an MIT employment policy to try to resolve the problem – either in person or in writing. If you choose to write a letter or a memo, state the facts as you see them, your concerns, and what you think should happen next. 

Third-party facilitation

With this option, a third party may coach you on conflict management, may engage in “shuttle diplomacy” between you and the person who you believe violated an MIT employment policy, and/or may bring you and that person together informally to attempt to resolve the problem. The third party can be, for example, a faculty member, an administrative officer, a human resources officer, the Title IX coordinator or a Deputy Title IX coordinator, an ombudsperson, a supervisor, or a department head; in addition, for students, the third party might be a head of house, or a student trained by MIT as a mediator or as a REFS (Resources for Easing Friction and Stress). The third party should follow up with you to be sure that the problem has stopped and no perceived retaliation has occurred. 


Formal mediation is a confidential process in which both you and the other person are helped by a trained mediator to find your own resolution. Mediation is like third-party facilitation but is more formal, and both parties must agree to mediation. Mediators are trained to be neutral and not to take sides with either person. Resolutions reached are often put in writing. They are not kept by the mediator. They also are not kept by the Institute, nor are they monitored or enforced by the Institute, unless specifically stated in a written agreement. Note that mediation is not used for allegations of sexual assault. 

Generic approaches

A generic approach is intended to alert the person who you believe violated an MIT employment policy to his or her conduct. It is done in such a way that should cause the person to stop the offending conduct without your having to talk to anyone other than a confidential intermediary. For example, an intermediary could ask a department head – without using anyone’s name – to distribute and discuss copies of the Institute’s harassment policy, to provide harassment training, or to raise the subject in a staff meeting in such a way as to discourage the conduct. If you try this approach, please follow up with your intermediary if the offending conduct does not stop or seek out another person listed in Resources. 

Anonymous and confidential reporting

MIT also offers the option of anonymous reporting. Note that MIT’s ability to respond to anonymous complaints may be limited. 

  • You can confidentially consult with the Ombuds Office about any concerns or complaints. The Ombudspersons can help you in reviewing the options for constructive conflict management. Note that the Ombuds Office does not investigate complaints. Consulting with the Ombuds Office does not provide legal notice to the Institute, and does not trigger an investigation. The Ombuds Office keeps only anonymous aggregate data with no names attached. These data help improve MIT’s understanding about the issues of concern to members of the MIT community.
  • MIT has established an anonymous and confidential hotline managed by Ethicspoint, a third party vendor. Members of the MIT community may file a report either by telephone or through an online form.
  • A separate Lincoln Laboratory hotline is maintained for employees and staff to report any concerns occurring at the Laboratory.
  • The MIT Police has a form for anonymous reporting of sexual assault, which can be submitted by anyone and does not ask for the name of the victim or reporter. This form can also be used by anyone at Lincoln Laboratory.

The Informal Resolution Process

The informal resolution process is voluntary and all parties must agree to participate. If any party declines to participate or the complaint is unsuitable for informal resolution, the IDHR office or HR will proceed with a formal investigation at the request of the complainant. If the parties agree to participate in the informal resolution process, either party can request to end the process at any time. The IDHR office or HR can also end the process if the parties are at an impasse, or it becomes evident that the informal resolution process will not be successful.

If the parties are not able to resolve the complaint through the informal resolution process, the Complainant can request that the complaint be formally investigated through the formal complaint process set forth in the Complaint Resolution Policy.

HR/IDHR will try to complete the informal resolution process within 30 calendar days after the parties agree to participate. Resolution of a complaint through the informal resolution process means that there will not be any formal finding(s) by MIT that an Institute policy was violated. If the complainant wants a definitive finding on whether the alleged misconduct constitutes a violation of an MIT policy, the informal resolution process is not appropriate.

Informal Resolution Agreements

If a complaint is successfully resolved through the informal resolution process led by the IDHR office or HR that both parties participated in, the parties will sign a form (prepared by HR/IDHR), setting forth the terms, and the matter will be closed. The IDHR office maintains records of all Informal Resolution Agreements involving complaints of protected class harassment or discrimination. HR/IDHR will conduct a follow up review after a period of time for any complaint that is resolved with an Informal Resolution Agreement to ensure that the resolution has been implemented effectively and that there are no ongoing concerns.