Consulting and Special Projects
The manager of a medium-sized city government knew when he was elected that a problem with a division head had developed into a legal and potential political liability based on complaints of harassment and retaliation. The city manager was willing to take the leadership position and address the problem but to respond to the legal, public, and political interests, needed data that clearly identified and documented it.
Approximately 130 surveys were distributed to department members and about 90 returned, some with lengthy descriptions of their experiences and their impact. About 35 people participated in private interviews.
Surveys, interviews, and data analysis made the extent of the problem clear, and strategy sessions for addressing the problem supported him in his new role and decision-making.
After a presentation on conflict management to the staff of a nationally recognized arts organization, a conversation with the CFO turned to managing a difficult staff member. I suggested letting the staff member go, but the organization had no formal job descriptions and therefore no basis for performance evaluations or decisions. I was asked to create their first performance evaluation system without using the terms "performance” or "evaluation." The outcome perfectly suited the organization's culture.
Understanding organizational cultures and how to use them to foster improvement and advancement supports projects like this one, and being a mediator helps to develop consensus instead of disagreement.