TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Most people will deal with conflict in one way or another at some point in life. For Airmen with the mission to rapidly project American power anytime, anywhere, conflict within the workplace or at home could make life difficult.
The 60th Air Mobility Wing Equal Opportunity Office implemented a Conflict Management program in June 2018 to help Airmen resolve issues. The program is available to military members and civilians, including military family members.
“Our Air Force Instruction states military members can file an informal complaint or be provided an avenue where they could address someone they may have an issue with themselves, but I felt we didn’t have the tools in place to facilitate that,” said Tech. Sgt. Piankhy Richberg, 60th AMW EO NCO in charge. “I recommended the Conflict Management Coaching Program to my EO director, and in June, we were able to provide it here at Travis.”
“The vision I have is for our wing and base to be a conflict competent organization where we can resolve issues at the lowest level and keep our mission thriving,” added Richberg.
The goal of the program is to empower people to resolve conflict at the lowest level, whether those conflicts are interpersonal or work related, said Richberg.
“When a person comes in, we help them clarify their goal and then we get the details about the situation,” he said. “From there, we identify what the individual’s triggers are and how they react to those triggers. We help the client identify potential solutions, as well as the pros and cons for each scenario.”
From Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018, the EO office has received 23 complaints reporting a variety of concerns.
Richberg said about 90 percent of those cases could have benefited from conflict management coaching.
“Conflict management coaching is done one-on-one between one of our EO members and the person receiving the coaching,” he said. “It typically comes before mediation. We help the person articulate what they want to say to the other party and we even rehearse the interaction the person will have with the other party. Throughout this process, we provide them with feedback based on what they said they wanted to achieve.”
If necessary, the process could be completed over multiple sessions with each session lasting for approximately one hour, said Richberg.
“Each session is intended to end with some type of commitment from the client,” he said. “Whether that’s to better respond to their triggers, identify how they can approach the other person or commit to identifying possible solutions at our next session.”
Eleven Airmen have taken advantage of the program since its inception and Lt. Col. Lee Hages, 60th AMW director of staff, said he hopes more Airmen who are struggling with conflict use the program.
“I encourage Travis team members to use this program if they need it, because anytime we can solve things at the lowest level, where the conflict is occurring, is only going to enhance our mission,” he said. “We are also developing our Airmen as leaders as they’re empowered to develop solutions.”
“I hope people feel comfortable using this new program because it’s a great tool and it empowers people to develop solutions at the lowest level,” he said. “Conflict management provides a step before alternate dispute resolution or maybe a step in lieu of that where it just takes one person who is concerned about something that’s creating conflict in their environment. Now we have the capability to use some additional tools and techniques to help people resolve issues on their own.”
Alternate dispute resolution is a program offered through the Travis EO office. With ADR, counselors serve as mediators with two individuals who have a dispute.
While Airmen can pursue ADR, Richberg said, Airmen who use conflict management coaching have greater success in ADR sessions.
“People who took advantage of conflict management prior to setting up an ADR session have seen those ADR sessions go from taking four or five hours to 90 minutes,” he said. “This is possible because people are more aware of how to articulate what they want to say in a constructive way that often leads to a positive resolution.”
Conflict management coaching also has the potential to enhance an individual’s self-awareness, Richberg added.
“It’s so important to know what triggers you,” he said. “Maybe when someone rolls their eyes or breathes hard, that bothers you, and it’s important to recognize how you react to that. Knowing how you react to whatever triggers you helps you combat a potential negative reaction with something more positive that can help resolve issues. This program has the power to develop someone’s emotional intelligence.”
To schedule conflict management coaching appointments, call the EO office at 707-424-1701. The EO office can also be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.