News | Oct. 4, 2019

Mediation: DLA’s hidden gem

By Dominique Shelton DLA Aviation Public Affairs Staff Writer

As Aviation Annie sat there replaying the events from the past several weeks over in her mind, she began to question how she ended up here. Sitting across the table from someone she once considered a friend separated by an agency assigned mediator, the tension between the two could be felt throughout the room.

As one of close to 70 Defense Logistics Agency-wide mediators, Harris “Jay” Greene, program analyst, Command Programs Branch, Command Support Directorate DLA Aviation, has heard this story all-to-often during his year-and-a-half tenure as an agency appointed mediator. 

Throughout her 20 plus years serving as a DLA Aviation team member, Annie had seen her fair share of changes. From changes in management to policy as well as changes to the installation, Annie had been there for them all. While she had been able to adapt to all of the previous changes, there was one change she just could not seem to adjust to -- her new boss, Boss Bob!

Annie felt that she was being treated unfairly by Bob in comparison to all of the other members on the Aviation team. In an effort to combat this issue and mitigate the problem, Annie sought out the DLA Aviation Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Office (EEOD) to file a formal complaint. The EEOD Office suggested Annie try RESOLVE before moving forward with the EEO complaint process. 

 “Oftentimes, an issue could be ironed-out if people would just have a conversation,” said Greene. “As a mediator, my job is to referee the conversation. With that said, one of the things I tell people is that this is a mutually agreed upon settlement between the agency and the individual. As such, it is not just the agency dictating terms or just the individuals dictating terms, but a collaboration and that collaborative effort is the key to the entire mediation process.”

Per Defense Logistics Agency Instruction 7412, RESOLVE, which stands for Reach Equitable Solutions Voluntarily and Easily, is DLA’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program for EEO complaints. ADR provides a quick, informal and cost-efficient means of addressing and resolving workplace disputes.

This was exactly the type of help that Annie was looking for!

Because Annie and Bob had history, she did not want to do anything too drastic. Ultimately, she just wanted him to ease up and treat her just as he did everyone else. The two had known each other for quite some time. Before stepping into the deputy director position, Bob was Annie’s colleague: her equal. The change in the dynamics of the relationship was hard on Annie. While not the best of friends, they were once fairly close. Annie said, they had always had a mutual respect for one another, that was, until Bob stepped into this new role.

According to Greene, the mediation process can be used to combat a number of issues from denial of regular days off (RDO’s) and promotion, to the more common culprits i.e., wrongful termination, harassment and reprisal, etc.

Never in a million years did Annie think it would come to a point where she and Bob would need mediation just to coexist. Nevertheless, they were both willing to give the process a try in the hopes that it would help.

 “ADR can be very beneficial,” said Niketa Wharton, DLA Aviation, ADR Specialist, aviation associate counsel, DLA Counsel, Aviation. “Mediation has been practiced for more than 5,000 years and its track record proves that it works. One of the main reasons it is beneficial is because it gives conflicting parties the power to resolve their conflict their way and on their own terms. It allows parties to self-determine the fate of their issue as opposed to having someone else determine it for them. An individual can walk away from a RESOLVE mediation session knowing they worked to settle their issues and got what they needed in order to move forward.”

After two days of mediation, the two parties were able to come to an agreement that worked for everyone involved. The process, while lengthy and sometimes challenging, proved to be very helpful in the end.

As a result of having gone through this process, Annie learned that mediation could be a very useful tool when used appropriately.

“ADR processes, with mediation being only one particular process, are excellent mechanisms that can be used to address just about any type of conflict you could encounter at DLA or elsewhere,” said Wharton. “These processes can address not only EEO complaints, but also Union grievances, workplace disputes between co-workers, supervisors and employees, vendors and the agency, along with many other conflicts as well.”

To learn more on the RESOLVE program and the mediation process, please contact the DLA Aviation EEOD office at avneeo@dla.mil or refer to

https://www.dla.mil/EEO/Business/Alternative-Dispute-Resolution/

*Editor’s Note: fictitious names of Aviation Annie and Boss Bob were used to protect the privacy of employees who have participated in the mediation program.*