The Foreign Service Journal, April 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2024 7 Hope for Resolving Workplace Conflict BY TOM YAZDGERDI Tom Yazdgerdi is the president of the American Foreign Service Association. PRESIDENT’S VIEWS Iwas serving as AFSA State VP when I wrote the November 2020 FSJ article, “Time for an O ce of Con ict Resolution.” It was about the need for such an o ce because of the corrosive e ect of bullying bosses on morale and the State Department’s work culture. I noted that this phenomenon, not the formal complaints that led to grievances or EEOC lings, accounted for the most messages we received from our members about workplace con- ict. (Please also see FSO Zia Ahmed’s eloquent January-February FSJ Speaking Out on why bullying has never truly been addressed and why we are all to blame.) I am happy to report that the Workplace Con ict Prevention and Resolution Center (wCPRc) is about to be resourced and sta ed up, hopefully as soon as this month or next, as the article from the Ombuds O ce in this edition details. Full disclosure: AFSA had hoped a new anti-bullying o ce would be established within the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM), as outlined in the original plan, with a dedicated investigatory arm and the ability to compel both sides in a workplace con ict to come to the table and abide by center decisions. e original plan could not go forward, stymied by some congressional opposition. So we do appreciate the department’s willingness to think creatively, leverage existing authorities, and establish it under the Ombuds O ce (S/O), which is part of the Secretary’s o ce and led by the very able ombuds herself. We all want the wCPRc to have a real e ect in stamping out the scourge of bullying in all its forms. Having a dedicated point of contact within the department for reporting these abuses is an important rst step. Previously, you could go to the ombuds if you were getting bullied, but that o ce did not have a mandate, the resources, or sta to triage at the case level. We hope they will now. ere are those who remain skeptical about what this new center can achieve, which is completely understandable. e Ombuds O ce describes itself as con dential, informal, impartial, and independent. It does not formally investigate allegations of bullying or serve as an advocate for one side or the other in a workplace con ict. Nor does it issue binding decisions. We ask that you engage with and provide feedback to the center if you use its services—and even if you don’t. e S/O can conduct consultations, coaching sessions, and climate surveys for individual o ces or entire missions, as needed. e wCPRc will complement those functions by serving as a point of contact to review, triage, and refer individual cases to bureau executive o ces, S/OCR, and other units as appropriate. Please get involved, ask questions, and provide your thoughts. Once the center is up and running, please let AFSA know what you think of its operations and impact. e wCPRc is meant to play a part in the oft-stated department e ort to hold people accountable for their actions. at is something that AFSA strongly supports and deeply hopes will amount to more than just words. We know that many of our members believe the more senior the o cial, the less accountable for their own actions. We also know from the State Department’s Stay Survey and exit surveys of those resigning or retiring from the Foreign Service that this remains a big problem. AFSA also hopes the department will give no quarter to the argument that the bully produces excellent analysis for Washington or that exigent circumstances “forced” the bully to act the way they did. When an o ce or post faces challenging circumstances, that is precisely when behaving appropriately and treating people with dignity are most important. We hope that the ombuds will make the principle of accountability—regardless of who is involved or what the circumstances are—the overarching vision for wCPRc. AFSA will do its part by engaging with the center to help ensure its activities and operations are as e ective and transparent as possible. is is an initiative that must succeed. If successful, the center can be an example for the other foreign a airs agencies, which no doubt su er from the same a iction of workplace con ict. Please let us know what you think by writing me at n