Study of staff morale
shows respect is key
By Rebecca Arrington
and trust. Regardless of where you work at the University, that's
what it boils down to in making the workplace here a productive
environment that enhances the quality of our work lives and promotes
is what U.Va.'s Executive Committee of Employee Councils, which
meets every other month with Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice
president and chief financial officer, is finding in its mission
to communicate to and be a liaison between classified staff and
administration on matters of mutual concern.
the past year, a recurring issue kept cropping up at its meetings
-- low morale across Grounds among classified staff. Sandridge
asked the committee members to go back to their respective areas
and solicit input from staffers as to the possible causes.
of the concerns employees cited include:
inconsistencies in evaluations and job classifications;
the need for 360-degree evaluations, where employees can critique
their bosses' job performances without fear of retaliation;
of communication between supervisors and staff (for example,
supervisors changing employees' job duties without consulting
not knowing proper policies and procedures that could put their
departments and/or U.Va. at risk;
a lack of common courtesy -- there were reports of faculty supervisors
shouting at staff members;
small annual raises continually being wiped out by ever-increasing
hikes in parking fees and health care premiums.
its information gathering, the Executive Committee, made up of
the chairs of U.Va.'s five Employee Councils, prioritized employees'
concerns in order to look for ways to address them. Supervisory
training topped the list and was discussed at a Sept. 16 meeting.
After hearing candid comments about supervisors from several committee
members, Sandridge noted that where a person works seems to be
irrelevant. Rather it's respect and courtesy that are crucial
in developing the ideal work environment, he said.
Lord, director of Organizational
Development and Training (ODT) and guest speaker at the meeting,
gave an overview of the various supervisory training programs
his area offers. He said most of the supervisory programs are
geared toward mid-level managers, where he feels training is needed
most to improve the workplace.
Lord also noted that even though employee morale is perceived
as low, when he talks with people individually -- he's spoken
with hundreds of U.Va. employees in numerous departments -- approximately
90 percent of them rate their job satisfaction at seven or higher
on a scale of one to 10.
cautioned that supervisory training is but one small piece of
the pie in improving supervisors' performances and overall workplace
environments. It's complicated, he said, adding that he's never
met a supervisor yet who didn't want to be the best he or she
Committee members were receptive to Lord's remarks but commented
that those who really need the training won't seek it because
they're not required to do so.
said he knows some managers who would get A's and B's in dealing
with their superiors at U.Va. and with counterparts outside the
University, but who'd get D's and F's in dealing with staff in
their own department, especially subordinates. Those managers
are the ones who are strongly encouraged to attend training programs,
such as ODT's, he said.
also announced that he has begun 360-degree evaluations in his
area at the upper-management level. Employees should be able to
evaluate their supervisors honestly without fear of retaliation,
a separate interview, Karen Holt, director of Equal Opportunity
Programs, said she hears a lot about "climate" and "treatment"
in the workplace. To improve the situation and at the request
of U.Va. President John T. Casteen III, Holt's office is rolling
out a new, mandatory training program for managers this spring.
It focuses on "best practices" in supervising employees,
as well as sexual harassment training. Starting at the vice presidential
and dean level, all academic faculty and anyone else who evaluates
employees or approves performance evaluations will be required
to attend, Holt said.
and accountability will be the topics discussed at the next meeting
of the Executive Committee of Employee Councils in November. Employees
should contact their area's Employee Council representative if
they would like to have their concerns addressed.
Communication Councils & Chairs
Affairs: Marsha Gibson, firstname.lastname@example.org;
VP & Provost: Karen Allen, email@example.com;
Exec. VP & CFO: Judy Mallory, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Medical Center: Michelle Flynn, email@example.com;
Health System Academic & Research: Beth Koehler, firstname.lastname@example.org.