A federal agency with Congressionally mandated responsibilities for government-wide security standards, faced mission-critical challenges brought on by years of internal conflict. Through their hard work and with support from ADR Vantage, they broke through entrenched behavior sand communication patterns to find common ground to tackle resource, trust, and relationship challenges.
This agency had sustained steady reductions in resources over many years, even as their mandates from Congress remained the same or grew. With fewer staff, outdated technology, a revolving door of leadership, and do-more-with-less mentality, relationships were strained, and employees clustered into the comfort of cliques. Notably, during an all-hands meeting to introduce ADR Vantage and our assignment, no employee spoke or even asked a question. To move forward, everyone needed to have a voice, and leaders, both formal and informal, needed to trust and participate in a process to lead to change.
- Conflict Assessment: Wary as they were, 100% of employees met privately with ADR Vantage for an individual interview. They shared a range of complaints and issues, from personal slights to anger at and distrust of their managers, to hostility among coworkers, to various issues around reporting and communication. ADR Vantage’s assessment provided an understanding of the nature of the agency’s conflicts and a basis for designing a process the employees would participate in.
- Small Group Team Building, Coaching, and Conflict Resolution: Using outcomes from the interviews, ADR Vantage structured dialogues with different groups of employees. The process allowed employees and leadership to vent and work through frustrations and set expectations for large group participation. It also provided coaching to support constructive discussions.
- All-Hands Team Building Meeting, Conflict Resolution, and Action Planning: ADR Vantage facilitated a half-day, all-hands meeting, building on the agenda from the small groups. The meeting explored long-avoided topics and got people talking and collaborating across employee and manager groups.
- Mediation: Two sets of employees requested to mediate around personal disputes, resentments, and anger. ADR Vantage mediated with the employees, allowing them to work through issues without further complicating the matters within the larger group.
The agency experienced a dramatic change in interpersonal communication–from the silent kickoff meeting to a lively discussion, debate, and some joint decision making. Employees raised and engaged their managers about their concerns; managers listened, shared their own concerns, and stayed engaged throughout. Together they made decisions about changes in communication practices and administrative policies, formed working groups to work on longer-term issues, and learned about each other and their shared values. Agency employees and managers acknowledged this meeting as the first of what they hoped would be ongoing discussions to stay in respectful communication over matters affecting their common commitment to their work.