Office of the Joint
Working together to find
RWA intervention has many facets
Colleagues come to talk to the Respectful Workplace Advisor
(RWA) for help in looking for options and to get clarification on available
conflict resolution resources in the organization. Ideally, an RWA intervention
would happen as follows: a staff member comes to the RWA for help in exploring
options on a work-related issue that he's faced with. When the RWA confirms
that the staff member has indeed come to the right person, they make an
appointment for the two to meet confidentially to talk. Later on, the RWA
reports the issue to the Ombuds office on the RWA log without providing names.
In reality, however, things can happen quite differently. For
instance, people may not always ask for a specific meeting to discuss a matter
with the RWA. Most of the time, an RWA intervention happens during casual
day-to-day conversations with colleagues in corridors, gatherings, meetings,
phone conversations, etc. This may even be a major area of opportunity for RWAs
to make the most impact in managing workplace conflict.
An RWA in a country office once traveled to a field mission
with a colleague. The RWA had noticed from previous observations that this
person was always very quiet and often looked preoccupied. During the long trip
by road, the person talked about how unbearable the workload had been on him
since the new department supervisor had arrived. He talked about how he felt
that the work was not distributed fairly and that sometimes he had to stay late
on weekdays and come to work on weekends just to be able to meet deadlines
while others had time to chat and socialize in the office and leave on time. He
also talked about how this was starting to affect his health. From what seemed
like a mere "venting" of a staff member to another trusted colleague, the RWA
was able to give some pointers to the person on the possibility of contacting
stress professionals and also how to raise the issue with the supervisor or
talk to the Ombudsperson.
The best way to ensure that concerns heard by the RWAs during
such casual encounters are given serious consideration is to have them
reflected on the RWA log. RWAs enter on their log cases that they have handled
within a specific timeframe-without, of course, any information leading to the
individuals that have raised them-to their Ombuds/Mediator offices.
In addition to concerns brought to RWAs in various
circumstances, an RWA may also observe trends without individuals having raised
specific issues. These observations should also be brought to the attention of
the Ombudsman or Mediator. This way of reporting general concerns has proven to
be very useful in detecting problems in the general work environment and
helping Ombuds/Mediators to make recommendations for improvement. The
organizations may subsequently be prompted to revisit various policies
affecting the staff.
RWA feedback is usually included in Ombuds/Mediator annual
reports, highlighting the impact of RWAs on systemic improvement. It is
therefore very important that RWAs also try to identify underlying issues,
which often represent the origin of most conflict, and not capture solely those
that occasionally surface.
Does this mean that the RWA hat must be worn at all times?
Possibly so. In fulfillment of the important responsibilities vested in them,
RWAs, along with their individual functions, also stay alert to signs of
discontent and observe causes of conflict in their work environment. They might
provide staff members with valuable help in solving their individual
complaints, they may also play an important role in identifying systemic
problems that are often the true cause of everyday conflict.