Oct. 25-Nov. 7, 2002
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Garry Wills takes his turn at writing U.Va. history
Headlines @ U.Va.
Lampkin named new VP

Wanted: Minority grad students

Faculty Actions -- from the October BOV meeting
New director has familiar face
The struggle to create the University -- excerpt from Mr. Jefferson’s University
Grounds Keeper
Nursing enrollment, ranking on the rise
Opportunity key to library’s outlook
‘With Good Reason’ turns 10
Talk maps out path of early explorations
Dove’s play debuts in C’ville
America’s global stature Levinson Lecture focus
Tears for the Earth
Bond package to spur research
Alan Cohn
Photo by Jenny Gerow
Alan Cohn

New director has familiar face

Cohn to lead Employee Relations

By Anne Bromley

Those who know Alan Cohn as director of the Faculty and Employee Assistance Program, a job he’s held since 1991, will soon be seeing him in a new role — as University Employee Relations director.

He will be stepping into the shoes of Bill Vining, who retired in June after 33 years.

A self-described “hands-on person,” Cohn intends to make himself visible around Grounds, meeting with people in various offices and departments to get a clear understanding of needs and opportunities to enhance the workplace.

Cohn considered Vining a mentor.

“He helped me get adjusted to the U.Va. culture and community,” said Cohn, who worked in the Air Force for more than 20 years before coming to U.Va. He looks forward to fostering his own relationship with the employee councils that Vining established.

Debbie Gausvik, assistant director of employee relations, said, “Not many people could do what Bill Vining did, with his knowledge and experience, but I really think Alan is the right person for the job, with his skills and team-building experience, with his interest in and concern for employees.”

Early in his military career, Cohn said he saw how “intolerable bosses created a toxic environment … and then I watched the casualties” — not on the battlefield but at the bases. With his background in counseling and social work, Cohn started an employee assistance program for the Air Force that was adopted as the training program nationwide.

He will take his skills in listening, coaching and conflict resolution with him when he moves to Employee Relations in the Michie South building. Each person in his staff of three is trained in mediation. Employee Relations provides information and assistance on personnel policies and problems, from counseling and consulting to more formal disciplinary action. (The Medical Center has separate departments of human resources and employee relations.)

“We are here to assist supervisors, administrators and employees in understanding their rights to due process in dealing with performance problems,” Cohn said. The emphasis, however, should be on early identification of a problem to help the employee improve and be involved in the resolution, he stressed.

“Some managers have a tendency not to deal with a problem until they are frustrated, and then they respond to the employee with what feels like a personal attack. What’s important is to help managers deal with their employees with integrity and respect.

“In any community, everybody has an impact regardless of their status or classification.”

Workers can go to Employee Relations when they feel a sense of unfairness and injustice, said Cohn, emphasizing that his office is there for both supervisors and employees.

He hopes to coach supervisors in developing skills such as effective communication. He wants to develop partnerships with managers and employees, “to move from a we versus them attitude to us.”

“I’m committed to working toward fostering an environment that helps people feel like they love coming to work,” said Cohn. Related services — the Equal Opportunity Office’s ombudsperson and, in University Human Resources, the Division of Training and Employee Career Services, along with FEAP and Employee Relations — already are doing a good job, he said, but in these uncertain budget-cutting times, it’s more important than ever.

“How we treat each other is key — to our productivity, loyalty, commitment and well-being.”



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