Perhaps ironically or perhaps predictably, as the recession took its toll on the country and on its workplaces, many organizations found they needed more help in communication and conflict resolution. Organizations found that their workplaces were more prone to conflict and communication issues as employees faced the stresses of the recession at home and brought them to work. Private companies found that the economy challenged them to respond to an unpredictable and changed market place and to reassess approaches and existing plans in response. Non-profit organizations have been forced to scramble as their donor bases dried up and grant opportunities diminished. Like all workplaces, government organizations faced heightened potential for conflict and faced the added challenge of coping with radical cuts in public financing.
Not all of the added communication challenges were reactive in nature, however. The huge response by the federal government through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – often referred to as the “Stimulus Bill,” imposed new obligations for transparency and proactive communication on public entities receiving stimulus money. This set government scrambling to look for cost-effective ways to communicate with their constituents.
In this context, our consortium of consulting experts has been called upon to help meet the needs of the various working communities. Our work over the last several months has been very diverse and for those of us doing the work, it has provided a sense of fulfillment as we help individuals and organizations through the tough times.
Examples of our recent work in this context include:
- ARRA Facilitation: Facilitating community meetings for Los Alamos National Laboratory to enable the Lab to share the results of its stimulus-funded projects to conduct environmental cleanup and to decommission 1940’s-era Manhattan Project facilities.
- Employee Development: Designing and implementing a six-month employee development program, called the Administrative University, for cadre of administrators working within the core physics organizations at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
- Mediation: Conducting mediations to resolve title disputes in Northern New Mexico and employee disputes within a large branch of the federal government.
- Organizational Development and Conflict Resolution: Working with a higher education research entity to identify sources of conflict and lack of collaboration within several key functions and then, in collaboration with executive management, designing custom resolution approaches.
- Independent Employee Relations Investigation: Serving as an independent investigator to review the facts around employee allegations of misconduct for an organization so that appropriate personnel decisions can be made.
- Facilitating Strategic and Near Term Planning for Non-Profits: Providing retreat facilitation for several non-profit organizations in the Northern New Mexico. Our services to these organizations are provided at a greatly reduced fee.
No one can know exactly what the future holds, but it seems certain that even as the economy improves, changing regional and global circumstances will indicate the need for continued planning and adaptation. The successful post-recession organization is likely to emerge as one that devoted the energy and attention necessary to have a clear sense of direction, clearly defined roles, and systems and training in place to enable effective communication and collaboration with the minimal potential for conflict.
Bruce MacAllister, J.D.
Senior Principal, BES