Leadership Corner

Are you ready to Stand Up for Each Other?

May 18th, 2018 at 11:45AM

Photo: Portrait of Vicki Christiansen in front of American & Forest Service flags.
Interim Chief Vicki Christiansen, USDA Forest Service

The week of June 11 is upon us and it’s time to get ready to Stand Up for Each Other. As I travel around the country and meet with various Forest Service leaders and partners, one thing stands out to me wherever I go: A safe and respectful work environment is the foundation for everything we do at the Forest Service. We simply cannot succeed without it.

I want to thank each and every one of you for the time and energy you devoted to your local Listen and Learn sessions. We are all responsible for working together to create a positive work environment.

The next step is coming up. During the week of June 11, every Forest Service employee will participate in a daylong event called Stand Up for Each Other. Your local leaders will convene learning sessions designed to show how we as Forest Service employees can better support each other so that we all feel valued and respected. The Stand Up for Each Other event will also fulfill the mandatory Civil Rights training requirement for fiscal year 2018.

Attendance is mandatory. If you are unable to attend on the day your unit is having the event, you must make arrangements to attend a session on a nearby unit. You may also choose to attend a session in a neighboring district, forest, or other unit to ensure your safety and ability to participate freely. If none of these is possible; for example, if you have pre-planned leave that cannot be changed, please speak with your supervisor as soon as possible so other arrangements can be made.

Sometimes it is necessary to stop and collectively discuss as a community the issues that so deeply affect our culture and employee experience. I thank you in advance for setting aside this time to do what is both important and urgent for the Forest Service.

The day is organized into two interconnected parts. We will start the day with a series of group discussions and videos that focus on our anti-harassment policy and program. The videos feature a variety of Forest Service leaders and subject matter experts. In the afternoon we will discuss Forest Service values, culture and expected behavior. We will learn how to be an ally to our fellow employees so we know what to do if we experience—or witness—unacceptable behaviors. We will close by voicing our commitment to creating the work environment we all deserve.

We expect the following outcomes from Stand Up for Each Other:

  • Every one of us will understand that harassment, assault, bullying and retaliation are absolutely unacceptable behaviors.
  • We will all know what to do if we experience or witness unacceptable behaviors.
  • We will all understand and commit to shared set of behaviors for our interactions with each other. We will signal our willingness to protect one another and learn from our mistakes.
  • Each one of us will name one thing we will do differently as a result of the day’s event.
  • Our agency as a whole will have built a collective capacity among employees to Stand Up for Each Other.

The daylong Stand Up for Each Other event and our Listen and Learn sessions are just a start. We have lots of work in the weeks and months ahead to create the work environment each and every one of us deserves. 

Standing up for each other is something we must do every day. The first of our five national priorities is all about giving you the safe and respectful work environment you need and deserve. As your Chief, I am personally committed to ensuring that our work environment is safe, rewarding, respectful, resilient and free from harassment and retaliation of any kind. I am confident that the leaders who stand with me feel the same way.

The vast majority of our employees live up to the highest standards of public service. I am proud of the work we do and the way we do
it—with dignity and integrity, with respect for each other, for our partners and volunteers, and for the people we serve.