This April marks the Office of Conflict Management’s (OCM) 10-year anniversary.
For those of you who may not be familiar with its services, the OCM works with employees and management to build an inclusive and respectful workplace. Its purpose is to empower people to manage conflict effectively. Located in all five regions and at National Headquarters (NHQ), the OCM has been providing a safe space to feel heard and understood and has helped to create stronger human connections over the course of the last ten years.
When looking back at how the OCM has evolved, Jacques Vanasse, Acting Director General, Values, Integrity and Conflict Management said that, at its beginning, the OCM only provided basic conflict management services such as consultations, mediations, conflict coaching, and group interventions and the core training program. Over the years, the services offered expanded to include various types of training such as leadership, feedback and civility, to name a few. One key element is that the OCM services have always been and will remain confidential, impartial, voluntary and non-adversarial.
Jacques noted that, over the years, the OCM gained recognition and credibility not only as a service provider, but as a partner in creating and maintaining healthy workplaces. New positions had to be created in the regional offices to meet the increased demand. The OCM national annual reports have consistently showed an increased demand for its services.
Paulette Belliveau and Caroline Breau, two Senior OCM Senior Consultants in the Atlantic Region, noted that the OCM has expanded its service delivery from beyond just CSC and has partnered with other Federal Departments and community services. “It went from being one option to resolving conflict in the workplace to being recognized as a contributor towards a healthy, respectful and inclusive workplace” says Paulette, who has worked as an OCM consultant since its creation a decade ago.
Alma Ianiro, OCM Senior Consultant at NHQ, says that she considers the trust that people place in the OCM to be one of its biggest accomplishments. Those that reach out to the OCM are able to share their concerns and challenges without fear of judgment. “Conflict is a normal part of any workplace. It’s not always bad – or at least it doesn’t have to be. A person’s approach to the situation makes an important difference. Often times, defensive behaviour sets in and creates a breakdown in communication. However, when handled constructively conflict can build unity and strengthen relationships. This ultimately has a positive effect on our health, morale and productivity” she said. She added that the OCM aims to help people see conflict as a learning opportunity, and supports empowering parties, “our services promote taking ownership of the situation and growing from it.”
When asked what people would be surprised to find out about the OCM, Amanda Tirschman, Senior OCM Senior Consultants in the Pacific Region, says that “most people are surprised when they find out how few mediations we actually do … mediation is just one of the many services we provide. In the Pacific Region the service we provide the most is our conflict coaching support. People most often want to deal with the situation themselves and are seeking support in how to best do that. They are looking for tools and strategies to utilize and sometimes talking with a neutral person is helpful as it can help diffuse the strong emotional and often negative response.”
Ontario region Consultants, Maureen Gauci and Melonee Dowdall, indicated that clients are often surprised at the extensive backgrounds, knowledge, and experience of OCM consultants. In the words of a client, “… our mediators are often the best that we can expect from a diverse interdisciplinary field of professionals all rolled into one profession. We expect them to be not only good at one field but master of them all. To top it off, we don’t spend much time thinking about the importance of their work. It goes on in complete quiet, in the background. I have now come to deeply understand; that it is so important. Literally not only saving money, time and resources but, most importantly; people.”
Looking at the decade ahead, the OCM intends to place even greater emphasis on proactively managing conflict, according to Alma Ianiro. It will continue to play a leading role in providing expertise, tools, training and quality services to help the CSC workforce use collaborative approaches to deal with conflict and build healthy work relationships.
Jacques Vanasse noted that he would like to see OCM continue to build partnerships, provide core conflict management services and expand its role in the organization so that “the OCM will be a driving force in creating and maintaining respectful workplaces throughout CSC.”