|NIMHD staff have committed to an inclusive, respectful workplace.
The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion believes a respectful workplace requires cooperation and support from every employee. Within EDI, a team was formed to develop a formal policy document on the topic. The policy came to life with creation of a poster signed by every staff member. It captures the spirit of the Respect and Dignity Policy, a pledge employees take when they come to work in EDI.
“The conversations and debate about respect and dignity and the implementation of the pledge as an employee-led effort have really transformed how EDI operates,” said Debra Chew, EDI director. “The key for me was empowering each member of our team, irrespective of grade level, to respectfully and privately call a flag on anyone who may violate the spirit of the pledge. This dignified feedback process allows all of us to improve and get better at this. That’s the key—the notion of continuous improvement. And everyone within EDI has owned this.”
Under the leadership of acting director Dr. Yvonne Maddox, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities has established an Equity, Dignity, Inclusion and Respect Initiative. The institute has embarked on “a year of conversations” centered around the EDI Respect and Dignity Pledge, which includes a staff survey to assess the climate for change and identify where challenges and opportunities for improvement lie.
“The initiative is central to the work that we do at NIMHD since it relates directly with our mission of equity and inclusion of all groups,” said Maddox. “Our mission also needs to be lived and experienced in our workplace environment. By working together to identify the values we would like to retain, and learning how to implement strategies for change, we will create a more rewarding, positive and productive workplace.”
Upon her arrival at NIMHD, Maddox introduced her management philosophy to staff, based on the book Gung Ho! by authors Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. Her enthusiasm and excitement describing the “Gung Ho philosophy” was contagious. As a result, a team of employees began a series of discussions that included senior leadership and management. The values endorsed by staff include transparency, inclusiveness, trusted information, quality work, innovation, creativity, partnering and teamwork. A key outcome was establishment of the NIMHD worklife committee, which was officially chartered on Mar. 9.
“The first line of the EDI Pledge says ‘I am a change agent,’ which embodies part of what the committee hopes to be—a group of committed staff who want to help NIMHD be a place where everyone wants to work,” said Dr. Jessica Escobedo, worklife committee chair. The committee will solicit new members annually and seeks to include staff from all of the institute’s components.