Campus News

Employee Forum: advice on leadership, working together

Delegates heard how University Ombuds Office helps address challenges and how trust and care define good employee relations.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting of Employee Forum on March 1, 2023.
(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The March 1 Employee Forum meeting centered on the essence of leadership and on communication as the best way to solve problems.

Becci Menghini, vice chancellor for human resources and equal opportunity and compliance, offered thoughts on leadership and relationships, particularly as employees and supervisors will soon engage in annual performance reviews.

She recently attended a conference where a leadership expert said that leadership is generally about relationships between employees and their supervisors that are defined by two questions: Can I trust you and do you care about me? “I was struck by the fact that we can break down leadership into conversations about relationships,” she said.

Menghini added that HR and EOC are “trying to create a community where you feel that people care about you and that you can trust what we’re saying.”

She said that the researcher had some astounding conversations after beginning performance reviews by asking:

  • What has the organization done to help you toward your professional goals?
  • What have I done or can I do to help you in reaching your professional goals?

She suggested that employees and supervisors think about how the questions could be useful during performance reviews. She also encouraged employees to “flip the script, maybe saying, ‘I’m interested in asking you a couple of questions.’” That might begin a conversation that the forms and competencies of reviews are meant to start, she said.

In other updates:

  • The University continues to advocate with the UNC System for salary increases and improved salary ranges, while awaiting state legislature decisions.
  • Human Resources will reinstate recognition events for milestone work anniversaries and is working on a gift program.
  • Menghini asked that supervisors keep March 15 clear of meetings, if feasible, to allow employees flexibility to attend the Total WellBeing Expo.

Dawn Osborne-Adams, University ombuds and director of the University Ombuds Office, described how trained staff in her office partner with employees and students in navigating challenging situations. She stressed that even administrators come for assistance in thinking through things like introducing new policies and other decisions. “There’s no jurisdictional constraint, no limit about who can come and what they can bring,” she said.

The office, with Associate Ombuds Joshua Canzona and Assistant University Ombuds Victoria Dowd, is at 137 E. Franklin St., Suite 22. They and Osborne-Adams offer free sessions via videoconference, phone or in person.

Osborne-Adams said that the office is impartial, confidential, informal and independent. “Those ethical standards help us do the work that’s really the heart of our office, giving people a wide-open space to be able to talk freely about whatever they’re facing, help them think about goals and options and strategize what they’re going to do next.”

The office can also:

  • Assist someone who has already spoken with a supervisor or leadership, but the group does not know what to do about an issue.
  • Facilitate a conversation between two or more people undergoing interpersonal conflict when they might not otherwise talk.
  • Conduct workshops or make presentations for campus units about the office’s services.

During his time with delegates, Provost and Chief Academic Officer J. Christopher Clemens said:

  • Carolina’s administration is determining guidance for campus units on implementing the UNC System’s new policy on compelled speech.
  • Faculty and administrators will engage in a thoughtful process about the proposed School of Civic Life and Leadership, just as they did in creating the School of Data Science and Society.
  • A capital funds request to the state legislature for addressing deferred maintenance on campus buildings could help address accessibility issues.

Watch the meeting on YouTube.