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A Reminder to Be Nice – hard on problems and soft on people

Dear NC State Faculty and Staff:

I’m Roy Baroff, the NC State Faculty and Staff Ombuds. This is my 8th year of service in this role and it’s been an honor and privilege to be your ombuds. Over the last two years, I’ve heard from faculty and staff across the university with a range of concerns. I’ve done my best to provide support and help people solve problems while remaining in the scope of my role – independent, confidential, informal, and impartial. Almost every visit, and particularly those in the last six months include expressions of exhaustion and it’s real. Everyone at NC State has drawn upon their reserves to get to this point and, for many, there’s nothing left to tap. Yet concerns and issues remain, and help is still sought.

As I think about the many conversations, about where people are at, and about how they are going about seeking help, I want to remind everyone that the ombuds office is here to help. And, I want to remind you of the ombuds office “Be Nice Campaign” – Be hard on problems and soft on people! Extend grace to each other even when you are frustrated, angry and upset. Both feel what you are feeling and recognize that in most every case the problem is the problem – not that the person is the problem.

This can be particularly important when you seek help. Think about how you would want to be approached with a challenging concern or topic. Take a few deep breaths, and the next time you seek help on an issue or just want to share your point of view – Be nice! Note that being nice does not mean giving in or being weak; instead, being nice means you are strong on the issues, the problem, while seeking to understand other perspectives and even being collegial! Have that robust discussion about the issue that is giving you difficulty yet Be Nice about it! People don’t want to be attacked and those in positions to support and help you are just as tired and exhausted as you are.

Finally, let me further explain that “being nice” has received a bad rap in recent times yet I believe it is needed more now than ever. I talk to people almost every week that are at their wits end, that are dealing with what they feel are insurmountable problems, and even thinking about changing jobs – some leaving NC State and others seeking a different locale within the university.

In some of these instances people seem to want to lash out at others yet that does not actually support the change sought. Do share your concerns, seek help and, at the same time, don’t attack people even when they won’t or can’t do what you seek. Do share the strength of your thinking, the strength of your feeling, (be hard on the problem) and be nice (soft on the people)!

If you find yourself ready to fight or even already in a fight, let me invite you to the ombuds office. It is confidential, informal, and impartial. It’s here to help from the middle.

Want help to figure out how to “be nice” and be strong – Go Ombuds. With best wishes,


Roy Baroff, MA, JD
NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds
Certified Organizational Ombuds Practitioner He/him