NC State Faculty Ombuds Office Charter


On Tuesday, October 20, 2015, the NC State Chancellor, Provost, Chair of the Faculty, and Faculty Ombuds signed the office charter outlining the role and particulars of the office. The office charter was drafted and reviewed by the Faculty Ombuds with an ad hoc committee including representatives of the Chancellor, Provost, General Counsel, Employee Relations, and Faculty Senate.  Many thanks to all for your help and support!

Here’s the Faculty Ombuds (Roy Baroff) putting pen to paper with Chancellor Randy Woodson, Provost Warwick Arden, and Chair of the Faculty Jeannette Moore.

NC State Charter Signing




NC State Faculty Ombuds Office Announces New Initiative


The “Be Nice Campaign:  Be Hard on Problems and Soft on People”


On June 19, 2015, in a New York Times opinion, Christine Porath wrote “No Time to Be Nice at Work” opening with “MEAN Bosses could have killed my father.” I wrote about this article in the summer (see entry of 7/31/15) and while the article certainly made an impression on me, I was already a believer in terms of encouraging civility even when people disagreed. As a long time professional mediator, I’ve long encouraged people to separate the people from the problem based on concepts from one of the seminal books on negotiation/mediation “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury. I noted in my earlier post that perhaps this could develop into a “Be Nice” initiative. This fits well with part of what I consider my role as the NC State Faculty Ombuds – to promote healthy conflict resolution approaches.

Fast forward to last week. In addition to serving as the NC State Faculty Ombuds (on a part-time basis), I also maintain an active dispute resolution practice serving as mediator, arbitrator, teacher, and trainer. This past year I’ve had a chance to work with Marine Special Forces Team Commanders in a two day program focused on negotiation and mediation skills for working with people outside a military command structure. These programs generally include other military personnel to help with role plays and provide experience based concepts for the program students. During a session last week, one of the assistant trainers, an Army Special Forces Veteran with experience across the globe shared the following story about one of his team Sergeants to highlight the importance of being nice.

The story goes like this:

In the mid 1980’s the Sergeant was serving as a military advisor in El Salvador. This was in the middle of fighting between government forces and FMLN forces. One day the Sergeant was driving down a fairly remote dirt road when he saw a women up ahead walking along the side of the road and carrying a bundle of sticks for firewood. He slowed his vehicle down because that’s what you do on a dirt road when someone is walking so you don’t stir up the dust. He stopped when he got near the woman and asked if she wanted a ride. She did, got in the vehicle, and they headed up the road. He dropped her off with hardly a word spoken along the way and quickly forgot about the event.

About 4 months later, the Sergeant is sitting in a restaurant/bar in San Salvador. The spot is know as a “neutral” location where people and military could gather without fear of violence. As the Sergeant sat, a man approached and asked if he could join the table. The man said – “Do you know who I am?” The Sergeant did indeed know as this was one of the rebel commanders that was being sought. The FMLN commander sat down, looked to the Sergeant and said: “I just want to let you know that you will get out of this country alive . . . and, my mother says thanks for the ride.”

University campuses are designed to foster critical thinking and as part of such thinking comes disagreement. This is true for both students and faculty and comes in many forms. Unfortunately, both in and out of the classroom, there are times when disagreement between ideas becomes disagreement between people and differing opinions may cause differing and sometimes hostile treatment. This incivility as Christine Porath wrote can have both direct health consequences and impact the ability to be productive at work.

As I reflect on my short time as the NC State Faculty Ombuds (opened the office in February 2015) and the range of issues that have come my way to date, some of the situations call out for faculty to figure out how to disagree in a better way. How to be civil and polite while being assertive and even forceful on ideas – how to think and do conflict resolution in more productive ways.

Thus, with the connections noted above, I’m pleased to announce a new initiative from the NC State Faculty Ombuds Office –

The Be Nice Campaign: Be hard on problems and soft on people


This campaign will develop over time with a range of programming including written materials, training, and perhaps a public forum on the topic; however, the first step is to announce it and, in so doing, raise how faculty treat each other as an appropriate issue for consideration.

I look forward to working with you all to “Be Nice” and continue the critical thinking necessary to foster, develop, and share differing ideas and perspectives.

Difficult Conversations – Office of Faculty Development Workshop

Conflict resolution workshop featuring Roy Baroff, NC State Faculty Ombuds, presented by the Office of Faculty Development on Friday September 18th from 1:30 pm – 2:45. Come learn about Conflict Styles, how to have that difficult conversation, and meet the NC State Faculty Ombuds.  Here’s a link to registration for this event: OFD Registration

Hope you can attend!

What’s Your Conflict Resolution Style?


I recently conducted a negotiation/mediation training for members of the military who were working with both military and civilians from other countries. The idea was to explore how to negotiate and even mediate when one did to have authority to order an outcome. One aspect of this training considered conflict resolution styles.

Much has been written and researched in this regard with early work completed by Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann in what became know as the Thomas Kilmann Inventory of conflict styles.  The identified styles include –  Avoid, Accommodate, Compromise, Collaborate, and Compete.  The point of the inventory and my use in a training is to introduce the idea that we have these styles and can choose one or more to match a given situation.

Thus, each style is the perfect choice depending on the situation and your goals. For example, if you have time, relationships are important, you want to build a team, and generate full buy in on a decision, then collaboration would fit as your choice. On the other hand, if the issue is not that important to you, but important to another, and you are okay with the choice, then accommodating will likely work. And, while the most popular form of conflict resolution is to Avoid, it is not always the best choice. Again, sometimes it is – just not always.

In the training I referenced, we discussed how each conflict resolution style could indeed fit various situations and that the key was to step back, analyze the situation, and think through which style or even a combination of styles worked best. The idea is that not every problem or conflict is a nail with only a hammer in sight. Finding the right tool, the right style will help you resolve conflicts.

Make the right choice – whichever one it is.

Be nice at work!


When should you be nice at work? The answer is “all the time” and doing so can lead to advancement and productivity.

That’s part of the conclusion presented by Christine Porath, Associate Professor at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, in her recent New York Times Opinion piece, No Time to Be Nice (June 19. 2015). According to Porath, “rudeness and bad behavior” have significantly increased at work in recent years causing a myriad of problems both for individuals and companies.

Incivility can cause people to miss information right in front of them decreasing performance. It can squash creativity and impede promotion. While some perceive being civil and polite as weak, studies show that “civility elicits perceptions of warmth and competence.”  Additionally, studies by Morgan McCall, Jr. and Michael Lombardo from the Center for Creative Leadership, found that “the No. 1 characteristic associated with an executive’s failure is an insensitive, abrasive or bullying style.”

Want to advance – want to be a leader – be civil!

So, how do you do it?  Porath suggests it can be simple. She tried an experiment – smile at people. Others have banned cell phones and laptops from meetings so people will be fully present and connected in person.  The Ochsner Health System in Louisiana created the “10/5 way” – make eye contact if you come within 10 feet of someone and say hello if you come within 5.  The outcome, according to Ochsner is greater patient satisfaction and referrals.

I suggest you re-read that email you are getting ready to send and make sure it conveys your message in a civil manner.  Try saying hello to everyone within 5 feet. Perhaps this can be the start of the NC State Faculty Ombuds “Be Nice” initiative for Fall 2015!

Hope you are having a great summer and see you in the Fall!

And, since you are within 5 feet – here’s a smile and a Hello!

Navigating the storm of Conflict

How do we deal with conflict?  That’s the question John Zinsser asks and answers in his recent TedX Charleston talk. I met John at the recent IOA (International Ombudsman Association) annual conference and he provides a great tool for thinking and dealing with conflict.  John calls himself a communication catalyst and has significant conflict resolution and ombuds experience.

John explains that most of us use the “legal model” of dealing with conflict and this takes us down the wrong track with a focus on the past, a search for the “truth” and then, based on findings, someone is punished or rewarded. He suggests that this approach largely ignores the things we really want, does not pay attention to relationships, and rarely focuses on the future. As a result, and I really liked this line ” we sacrifice tomorrow to win yesterday.”

John has an answer worth considering. He believes we need to do the opposite, move away from the legal model and do three things to deal with conflict.

1)  Focus on interests and intentions

2)  Invest in relationships

3)  Focus on the future

The idea is to think about the why (interests) that drives what you seek and to consider your intentions – where do you really want to go?  To pay attention to relationships and the future.  This approach will help you navigate the storm of conflict and find the direction to take you to your desired port of call.

In John’s words, don’t “win yesterday” – win tomorrow!

Here’s a link to John’s TedX Charleston Talk:

IOA Conference – build relationships to build resolution

I just returned from the IOA (International Ombudsman Association) annual conference in Atlanta. Just imagine 400 ombuds from across the country and the world gathering to talk, learn, and network around the work of the ombuds. The program was packed with plenary sessions and smaller seminars with topics to meet a full range of interests.

One plenary session focused on the idea of relationships and how we humans place significant emphasis on value in relationships. In thinking about this concept, if you are having a conflict with a colleague, then figure out what you can do that the other will perceive as valuable. (Note – its not what you are already doing that you think is valuable – its what the other will think is valuable.)  Taking such a step has the potential to create, rebuild, or perhaps enhance your relationship. And with a more solid relationship, then you may be more able to resolve the issue or conflict.

In my past mediation practice, I’ve used the phrase  “build relationships to build settlements” and its worth thinking about if you find yourself in difficulty.  And, of course, contact the NC State Faculty Ombuds if you need help!

Meet the Faculty Ombuds Program

Have you seen the NC State Faculty Ombuds on campus?  If so, this is part of the Meet the Faculty Ombuds Program. The Faculty Ombuds, Roy Baroff, appreciates meeting on campus to learn more about the various colleges and departments at NC State.  He believes that a faculty ombuds office should be both separate and connected to the institution that it serves. Thus, Roy has made presentations at various Department and College meetings and you may see him in your department. If not, give him a call and schedule a short introductory presentation on the Faculty Ombuds Office.