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News | Nov. 9, 2016

Workshop aims to increase resiliency in federal workforce

By Craig M. Rader DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

Employees from government agencies across central Ohio were at Defense Supply Center Columbus Nov. 7 for a leadership workshop presented by the Federal Executive Association.

A series of educational sessions and presentations filled the annual event. This year’s theme was “The Art of Balance: Developing Your Resilience and Wellbeing.” 

The FEA sponsors the workshop each year as part of its goal to improve and leverage coordination between central Ohio federal organizations and work towards increasing the capabilities of employees at those agencies.

In his remarks to start the event, Thomas Leach, field office director for the Columbus office of Housing and Urban Development, said despite the differences of each audience member, everyone in the room was united by a common desire to serve their country through federal employment.

“It doesn’t matter which office you work for,” Leach said. “You all serve your nation, and nobody can take that away from you.”

The Honorable Robert Rigsby, an associate judge with the District of Columbia's Superior Court, spoke to the audience about his own personal experiences with resiliency, and how he overcame a difficult childhood to become a decorated military officer and federal judge.

Serving to the best of one’s ability was a central theme to the workshop, with sessions promoting relaxation techniques, office culture development, and perseverance through adversity. Experts in each respective field offered techniques for improving personal resiliency.

“Self-compassion can often make us more resilient than our inner critic,” said Mary Jane Smith, a licensed professional counselor during her breakout session. “Once you allow yourself to accept your personal shortcomings, you can begin to make dramatic changes in your life and overall state of wellbeing.”

Smith said it’s important to remember the intention of an inner critic is often positive, but the methods for understanding and interpreting it can be problematic.

“The inner critic can be indulgent and get us into trouble sometimes,” she said. “It can act as our best friend and allow us to give into unproductive activities by rationalizing our behavior.”

She added that activities such as breathing exercises or muscle relaxation can often mitigate situations where the inner critic’s messages become overwhelming, and developing positive habits can reduce stress in a work environment.

The message of stress relief was echoed by Drew Henderson during his instructional session. Henderson is an employee health manager at Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime and said it’s important to learn to relax without feeling guilty about it.

“The true sources of stress aren’t always obvious,” Henderson said. “It’s easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings and behaviors.”

He said it’s important to identify the true causes of stress.

“You may know that you’re constantly worried about deadlines, but maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is leading to deadline stress.”

Another factor that contributes to an employee’s sense of wellbeing is the culture environment at their workplace, said Dr. Wendell Seaborne, a management professor at Franklin University in Columbus.

During Seaborne’s presentation “People and Culture in a Virtual World,” he said culture can be used as a way to build cohesion and a sense of stability in an office setting. He said that a strong culture can lead to increased morale and productivity.

“Employees will look to their leaders for cues about corporate culture,” he said. “Executives and senior managers within an organization have a significant amount of influence when it comes to culture. Their actions can either strengthen or undermine workplace culture.”

Seaborne also discussed how virtual workspaces and teleworking have shaped the way people view their office culture.

“Working in a virtual environment means that employees and supervisors need to trust each other, because they may not have daily face-to-face interactions.

“When managers allow their employees to work from home it requires a commitment from both groups, but the dividends can contribute to an arrangement that relieves stress and promotes a corporate culture of loyalty” he said.

In addition to its annual workshop, the FEA also offers training and development courses, community service activities, fundraisers, and federal employee recognition events.