Volume 4, Number 1, Oct. 2003
Developing Departmental Communication Protocols
Protocol Process: Subsection Two
Once the discussion of the didactic material is complete
the second subsection begins. As a group, attendees are asked
to respond to a series of three questions. Each question is
followed by a discussion of the attendee’s thoughts
and perceptions. The remarks are written of a flip chart for
all to see and reference as the discussion unfolds.
The questions are as follows:
- If someone is having a problem with you, how would you
like them to handle it?
- If a coworker comes to you to complain about someone else
in the department, what should you do?
- If you have made a “good faith” effort to
follow what was developed in #1 above,
but you can’t successfully address the issue, what
is your next step?
The group’s answer to the first question is always
“come talk to me”. The dialogue that follows allows
each individual in attendance to discuss what must be included
in the “Protocol” to insure a safe and respectful
discussion process. Typically, the items listed identify a
comprehensive set of “rules of the game”, or ground
rules, that allow individuals to get past process issues and
on to substance. Sample agreements are provided in attachments
#1 and # 2.
The answer to the second questions allows the group to develop
alternatives to “camps”. It also identifies an
alternative role to that of “gossiper”. Individuals
can remain good friends with their old “campmates”,
and evolve into coaches for developing their friend’s
communication and conflict management skills.
The outcome of the discussion of the third question leads
to a change in management’s role in the department’s
informal problem solving process. Often the supervisor
identifies as the point for initiating complaints. This often
creates an atmosphere where individuals give up personal
for problem solving, instead “tattling” to the
supervisor, who becomes a sort of ultimate parent. This
approach often evolves to the point where the “tattler”
insists that the supervisor resolve the problem in such a
way that the person “tattled” about will be
unable to identify the “tattler”. This frequently
evolves into a no win situation with the supervisor being
be sufficiently clear about the problem to insure the problem
individual understands either the problem, or the expected
outcome. Often the result is that the problem behavior continues,
and the “tattler” now is able to further complain
“management never does anything!”.
Typically, the outcome of this discussion leads to a change
in role of management from “parents” to quasi
mediators, who bring the parties together and helping them
manage their conflicts directly.
Not surprisingly, the “protocols” developed by
various groups are very similar. Attachment #1 and #2 are
Protocol Process: Subsection Three
The third section of the session focuses on the implementation
of the protocol. In this section attendees are divided into
small groups and asked to discuss assigned questions. As the
small groups report back, their reports are written on a flip
chart. The whole group then determines an implementation process
that meets individual, organizational and institutional needs.
Questions that need to be discussed are a follows:
- Should the Protocol developed in the session be kept
in draft form for additional review and comment by the group,
if yes, how long?
- When implemented should the “Protocol” be
seen as a regular part of the departments operational expectations,
or should it be a “ pilot program”?
- When and how should the “Protocol” be evaluated
as to its usefulness, need for revision, etc.?
- When implemented are there any organizational changes
that need to be made or overcome?
- How does the “Protocol” link to either the
mediation or formal grievance processes?
- (Optional for groups with union contracts) Are there any
formal notice requirements for any of the unions.
- Can or should the “Protocol” be a performance
expectation for faculty, staff and graduate students of
- What do I, as an individual need to do differently if
the “Protocol” is to be effective?
- How are individuals new to the department to be oriented
to the “Protocol”?