Bystander Awareness Day event held in Richmond

By Bonnie Koenig DLA Aviation Public Affairs

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If you have worked at Defense Logistics Agency Aviation for the last year it is certain that you have heard the term resiliency. Employees have been trained on what resiliency is, what it means in their day-to-day lives, how to cope, ways to help others become more resilient, and how it improves the organization’s culture.

To improve culture, DLA Aviation’s Employee Working Group and the Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Office hosted Bystander Awareness Day to emphasize the problems that arise when employees experience bullying in the workplace. The event was held Nov. 9 in the Lotts Conference Center on Defense Supply Center, Richmond, Virginia.

The EWG developed the program to remind employees of the different types of workplace scenarios that can test someone’s resiliency.  Previously on Oct. 19, as a precursor to Bystander Awareness Day, the group put on a skit titled Workplace Bullying.

The skit, organized by the EWG, was developed in response to personal stories shared by co-workers. After the Oct. 19 performance, audience opinions were solicited to gather ideas on how bystanders can react in a real-life situations or how to diffuse tensions in a meeting in order to focus on the mission at hand to better serve the warfighter.

“Victims of bullying, sexual harassment, age discrimination, and disparate treatment often don’t want to cause trouble by saying something,” said Nicole Byrd, sourcing strategy specialist in DLA Aviation’s Strategic Acquisition Programs Directorate.

“This event was to encourage bystanders to assist victims and to encourage victims to stand up for themselves” said Byrd. “It also shows how the operational security [OPSEC] phrase titled See Something, Say Something is relative to both security and appropriate human behavior.” 

Bystander Awareness Day breakout sessions were titled: Bullying, Sexual Harassment, Age Discrimination, and Disparate Treatment. Employees were asked to break into one of the groups to discuss those particular issues after a skit was acted out in each room. The groups then came back together and a representative from each of the groups gave an overview of the scenario and suggested solutions for each type of treatment.

Byrd then gave a presentation on why bystanders sometimes do not say anything when they witness this type of behavior, why it happens, and how to stop and prevent it from happening again.

DLA Aviation’s Monique Samuels, president, American Federation of Government Employees Local 1992 and EWG committee member, spoke on seeking help. Samuels said to validate victims’ situation by showing empathy and encouraging them to seek out help and stand up for themselves.

Samuels said there are programs available for assistance such as the EEOD office who counsels, coordinates, investigates, and documents situations; the Employee Assistance Program that offers counseling for employees and their family members for most all situations; and the Sexual Assault Response coordinators who will soon be placed at all DLA locations.

“While we know and think we know what we ought to do, as a bystander it is sometimes difficult to stand-up and say something because of the fear of retribution or other consequences,” said DLA Aviation’s John Johnson, strategic sourcing specialist in Strategic Acquisition Programs Directorate and EWG past chair and current advisor/mentor. Johnson added when dealing with these type of situations to always begin at the lowest level for resolution and support.

After presentations, DLA Aviation’s Deputy Commander Charlie Lilli took questions and addressed those attending.

“The entire culture of our enterprise depends upon our personal working relationships and our responsibility to each other is to develop those healthy relationships,” said Lilli.

“It’s clear in our culture that we have specific rules and regulations that prevent retaliations and there are official avenues to pursue those issues,” he said. “Do what you think is right and if retaliation becomes a problem then follow-up on those procedures in place to stop it.”

Lilli said the relationship we have with leadership and each other forms the foundation and the culture of our enterprise and it’s everyone’s responsibility to form those relationships.

“You don’t have to be buddies with your supervisors or co-workers, but you must develop a culture of respect and kindness,” said Lilli.