Sept. 24-30, 1999
Study of staff morale shows respect is key
Managers build strong relationships with employees
VA 2020 Science and Technology Planning Commission to hold workshops Sept. 23-25

NEH recognizes two U.Va. web sites

Women's Club entertains Virginia 2020 themes
Q&A - Dean Sondra Stallard on a mission
After Hours - Couple spends weekends horsing around
Housekeepers honored at picnic
Hot Links - Intramural-Recreational Sports
Stephen Cushman publishes narrative on Civil War battle
Woodson Institute fellows announced

In Memoriam

Sounds of Indian flute to fill Old Cabell Hall on Oct. 2


Study of staff morale shows respect is key

By Rebecca Arrington

Respect 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 community.

This 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.

Over 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.

Some 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;
  • accountability;
  • lack of communication between supervisors and staff (for example, supervisors changing employees' job duties without consulting them);
  • supervisors 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.

From 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.

John 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.

Lord 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 could be.

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.

Sandridge 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.

Sandridge 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, he said.

In 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.

Communications 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.

Employee Communication Councils & Chairs

Student Affairs: Marsha Gibson,; 982-5885
VP & Provost: Karen Allen,; 982-4913
Exec. VP & CFO: Judy Mallory,; 924-0997
Medical Center: Michelle Flynn,; 982-3317
Health System Academic & Research: Beth Koehler,; 924-5542



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