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Ombudsperson ready to help staff be heard

Tatia Daniels Granger

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Q&A with Tatia Daniels Granger.

Hourly and classified staff members at the College of William and Mary now have a new resource to help them address workplace concerns and conflicts, and she's ready to get started.

Tatia Daniels Granger is the College's new university ombudsperson, a person who provides confidential, impartial and informal resources for staff members seeking help with workplace concerns. The brand-new position is the result of a series of forums held last year during which staff members expressed their worries over workplace conditions and other issues.

"I'm excited that the College has decided to have this position in place," said Granger. "I think it speaks to the level of commitment on behalf of the institution in terms of voice and support for all levels of staff across the institution, and I'm just pleased to be a part of it and looking forward to working with folks, helping them address whatever situations and concerns they have about the workplace."

Granger, who has worked in higher education for nearly 20 years and has a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Virginia, was instantly interested in the position when it became available last year.

"It really struck a chord with me, the whole notion of being a voice, if you will. Not that employees can't speak on their own behalf, but I recognize that sometimes there are systems and processes that at least appear more complicated than they really are or should be," she said.

Granger was briefly introduced to the staff at a forum in December 2007. She has spent the first few months of this year meeting with people from offices across the campus and ombudsperson at other colleges and universities. Now, she is ready to hear from the community.

She said that the first thing people can expect when they come into her office is "really good listening."

"Just to get this person's perspective of what their circumstance, their concern is," she said. "And then also advice about potential resources on campus or just resources that are available on campus that the person may or may not have thought about but that could potentially help resolve whatever the concern is."

Granger noted that whatever she is told is confidential, and no formal process or files are started as with some traditional grievance procedures.

"It's really about talking and establishing the relationship and really helping the individual work through the circumstances without that person feeling like they are leaving a paper trail somewhere," she said.

As the ombudsperson, she is independent of any other administrative department or office on campus and reports directly to the provost.

"I am terribly excited that Tatia Granger has agreed to take on this important post," said Provost P. Geoffrey Feiss. "She brings extraordinary background and skills to a role that is very important to this community – assuring that all employees have a voice in matters that concern them in the workplace. Any university's greatest asset is its people and Tatia will, I know, provide exemplary support for valued members of the W&M family."

After listening to their concerns, Granger will help individuals indentify potential solutions by researching institutional policies and procedures, gathering information and informally investigating issues, arranging for mediation, providing advice and making referrals to other offices. However, she will not guarantee a resolution, give legal advice or psychological counseling, conduct formal investigations, determine innocence or guilt, or chose sides in any dispute.

"I'm not necessarily a proponent for either side, that's where the neutrality of the position comes in," she said. "It's really about listening to the information and then presenting some of the options, and if necessary, helping to work through some of those options, whether that be through facilitation or mediation, whether that be personally or engaging services for the individual."

Granger said she hopes the staff will see her as a resource to help them take action on their own.

"I'm really [helping to] empower the employee to handle the situation on his or her own terms to the best of their ability, not listening and saying, ‘Oh, I'll fix that for you,' or ‘I'll take care of that for you,'" she said. "That's not the goal. The goal is to provide the resources and the information so that ideally the employee can address the situation directly."

Granger said her goal is to create more open and effective lines of communication between the employees and the College, "and ultimately, by doing so, create an environment where a greater percentage of people are happy in their work," she said.

"I think that partnership is very important, and I think that where partnership begins to experience difficulty is when the communication breaks down," she said. "Sometimes it's what's not said that is as important as what is being said. Communication happens on so many levels, and unless we're paying attention to the nuances of those levels, then we might miss something."

Right now, the ombudsperson position is part-time as the College evaluates the need on campus. She is at the College Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9 a.m. and noon. However, she is available by appointment at a variety of times, including evenings, in order to better work with the diverse schedules of the hourly and classified staff. The best way for employees to reach Granger is by phone at 757-221-1941 or via [[tdgranger,email]].

Granger is married to Earl Granger, the College's associate provost for enrollment. They have two daughters, ages 3 and 6, and the family lives in James City County.