When a complaint comes forward at government agency its first stop will likely be the EEO office. Clearly, addressing the stated claim is an important task of the EEO investigator and the claim must be taken seriously. Unfortunately, some agencies behave as if the sole responsibility of the EEO office is to process complaints. To be proactive and do more than investigating complaints, leaders must be engaged with EEO professionals as partners in the process to address the underlying behavior.
More than Complaints
To fully address a complaint it’s important for the organization to look at the root cause. Many times the actions that lead to formal complaints start as “legal” behavior, things like rudeness, condescension, or bullying. These behaviors are not illegal, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Some leaders within the organization will even point to the lack of formal complaints as a sign that things are going smoothly. Sadly, if your organization is experiencing these other behaviors, the success of your agency’s mission and the public’s credibility is diminished.
Being proactive about training is the smartest way to avoid complaints and to keep your organization from being tomorrow’s top news for all the wrong reasons.
Reframe your role
To truly become proactive you will need to reframe and broaden the EEO pratictioner’s role. Actively work to move the debate away from the day-to-day EEO issues and focus on the impact on culture and the true “cost” to the organization. This may require conversations with leadership because many times it’s bigger than an EEO conversation. When handled correctly, addressing the culture involves more than a single department the initiative should affect the entire organization.
It’s also absolutely critical for EEO practitioners to see their role as a partner to other leaders within the organization. Changing behavior requires more than simply processing complaints and leadership should reinforce this position throughout the agency. EEO should exude confidence and authority as they build a more significant role in positioning training within the organization.
Increase your effectiveness by collaborating
Another way to shape the debate is to focus on collaboration with other departments. A strong collaboration between Human Resources and EEO is critical to creating effective training programs, so cultivate that relationship. Initiate conversations with other departments and ask about their needs. The Legal Department is another partner you can work with to start a dynamic training program.
It’s also not uncommon for there to be a demand for training but not always the budget. One added benefit of collaboration is that it can potentially pool budgets and reduce the cost burden to each division.
If you want to truly help your organization you need to think on a bigger and broader scale. Focus on culture instead of complaints and show your leadership the potential value of a positive corporate culture and the benefits that come with it.