By Lester Schoene, Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisor
The articles that were submitted over the past three weeks have focused primarily on the direct value of the Alternative Dispute Resolution office and their advisors, to the members of the FEMA workforce in their jobs within the workplace.
Aileen Denton Setter and Darrell Edmonds reminded us of the wide variety of services the Alternative Dispute Resolution office can provide to enhance program functions. Natasha Wilkins invited us to celebrate the lessons learned from each conflict when a person takes the time to deal with it constructively. Lydia Espinosa Crafton explained the challenges a culturally diverse workforce can bring and ways to meet these challenges. These articles describe how being aware of our behaviors and their impacts on our coworkers will create a more comfortable and productive workplace for everyone. Our workforce will be more effective in achieving the FEMA mission when Alternative Dispute Resolution services are utilized.
So how does this apply to support of our customers and partners?
Many of us work on a daily basis with customers who include survivors, state and local applicants, contractors, and suppliers. All of our customers are diverse individuals with different backgrounds and points of view.
Several years ago a Federal Coordinating Officer asked me what I found to be the most common source of conflict in the disaster workplace. Conflict can arise when there is a perceived lack of respect by one party toward another.
The primary objective of the Alternative Dispute Resolution office in FEMA is to prevent dispute escalation by building the capacity of our workforce to be:
- Respectful of one another’s needs.
- Aware of the effects of our actions on others.
- Prepared and willing to be proactive in resolving differences in a respectful manner.
The information we learn about multiculturalism from working in a culturally rich diverse workplace, may be one of our greatest assets in working with our customers. If we see challenges in our work place due to diversity, we could experience similar situations with our customers. It is important to quickly act in dealing with the challenges in our workplace so that we are better prepared to serve our customers.
Working through issues collaboratively with our customers with or without Alternative Dispute Resolution assistance can provide a valuable learning experience. Together with our customers and colleagues, we can celebrate differences of opinion for the opportunities they present to learn from one another, increase respect, and build better working relationships in the process.