by Jenny Gerow
New director has familiar face
Cohn to lead Employee Relations
By Anne Bromley
who know Alan Cohn as director of the Faculty
and Employee Assistance Program, a job hes held since
1991, will soon be seeing him in a new role as University
Employee Relations director.
will be stepping into the shoes of Bill Vining, who retired in
June after 33 years.
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.
considered Vining a mentor.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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. Whats important is to help
managers deal with their employees with integrity and respect.
any community, everybody has an impact regardless of their status
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.
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
committed to working toward fostering an environment that helps
people feel like they love coming to work, said Cohn. Related
services the Equal Opportunity Offices 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, its more important than ever.
we treat each other is key to our productivity, loyalty,
commitment and well-being.