Please describe your approach to conflict resolution.
I believe the best way to deal with conflicts is through open dialogue and a professional approach. You have to always be aware of your own biases and where you’re coming from in any situation, and to understand that other people may not only have completely different points of view — they may be thinking you’re having an entirely different discussion. The most essential first step is getting everyone on the same page as to what is being discussed and what the main points of contention are, in the clearest and least aggressive way possible so that you can work on finding a solution from there.
What do you feel the Board’s role should be in staff and volunteer performance issues and/or disputes, if any? What guides your opinion on this topic?
I don’t believe those matters should fall under board’s purview. Board holds a position of power and has historically been engaged in confrontations with chairs, staff members and volunteers, which has led to an atmosphere of mistrust. Keeping those subjects under board purview likely means many staff and volunteers aren’t comfortable coming forward with issues and disputes unless they have already reached a breaking point that likely means things are beyond repair by then.
In my experience with Translation, I noticed people are more willing to come forward with issues and open to feedback if they know and trust the person they are reporting to. For that reason, I believe disputes are better served if mediated by chairs, whom volunteers already know, at committee level; and they can involve an uninvolved third party from an impartial committee (such as Volunteers and Recruitment, or even Legal, if the dispute is particularly serious) in the case of issue between chairs or involving chairs.
Throughout the years, the Board as a whole has had a reputation for personal conflicts with some OTW chairs, staffers and volunteers, as well as among themselves. Have you ever witnessed this during your years in the OTW? What do you think might fix this?
I have personally witnessed board being aggressive, dismissive and rude to volunteers at all levels in the past. And I believe we need to create a culture of professionalism while interacting inside the org. We are not required to like everyone we work with, but everyone is entitled to fair, polite, and impartial treatment at the bare minimum, which isn’t always the case currently. Everyone should be mature enough to set aside personal dislikes when interacting professionally — for example, having a work-related conversation or looking at a proposal. There is no excuse for open rudeness or bullying.
In a hypothetical situation where you believed your fellow directors were behaving with hostility towards an OTW staffer’s request due to a personal grudge, how would you react? / How would you address a fellow Director who has been disrespectful or abusive to someone else in the organization? What if they refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for their behavior?
I would approach this director about their behaviour and try to mitigate the situation to the best of my powers.
The OTW doesn’t have a procedure to deal with bullying coming from board members, since the corrective procedure used for volunteers doesn’t apply to them. I strongly believe this needs to change; the board needs to be held accountable for their acts, just like the rest of the organization.
Board recently changed the bylaws to allow the removal of a board member by vote of 2/3 of the directors, but this still doesn’t directly address misconduct. The procedure doesn’t require a cause or explicitly say in what circumstances it should apply, and is restricted to board members; it can’t be initiated or requested by someone else in the organization.
I also believe this type of behaviour stems from the current culture of keeping all discussions closed by default. Once we start to move things to a more open environment, without requiring that all interactions with the board be covered by confidentiality, we will minimize opportunities for this kind of behaviour, making it easier to hold board members accountable for their actions and behavior.