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LLLI Grievance Commission -- Creating New Acceptable Agreements

Ilene Traiger
Ridgefield CT USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 4, August-September 2005, pp. 84-85.

LLL Leaders are usually a congenial group of people. Because we share a common philosophy of mothering, common goals in pursuit of our mission, and a common commitment to a purpose, we are able to work together amazingly well. When disagreements do arise, they can usually be resolved among the people involved or with help from supportive administrators. On rare occasions, a Leader may have a complaint that she feels has not been resolved through the usual and appropriate LLL channels. Like many other organizations, LLLI provides a Grievance Procedure, which exists to serve Leaders by providing a safe and simple way for both parties to explain their positions and then work together toward a solution.

Since such disagreements are so infrequent, it may be hard to imagine what kinds of disputes become grievances. The problem may be between a Leader and an LLL entity, such as an Area, Division, or Affiliate, or between entities. Grievances address problems of implementation of policy, not disagreements with LLL policy itself, which should be addressed to the Board of Directors.

One fascinating thing about the way LLL grievances are conducted is that they take place in cyberspace on Yahoo email groups. Each grievance has its own Yahoo group where the participants post and can upload any documents relating to the grievance. Picture a big table in a meeting room. The Yahoo group is like that big table. To avoid confusion, only three people actually post messages. These three are the grievant, the person representing the LLL entity, and the Grievance Commissioner who is the primary facilitator. Other people sit at the table and listen, although they do not post. These others may be anyone else the grievant wants to support her, other administrators from the LLL entity, and the other members of the Grievance Commission. Everyone can see who else is at the table because all the members of the group are listed at the Yahoo group site.

After everyone has introduced themselves, the grievant explains her complaint. She may upload documents and take as long as she reasonably needs. The other party does not respond or post on the site until the grievant has completed her presentation. Then it's the other's turn to respond to the complaint. At any time during the procedure, both parties may correspond confidentially with the Grievance Commission through the primary facilitator or one of the two agreed-on secondary facilitators who serve on each team. The parties can ask for help or advice, or share concerns. The facilitator's job is to remain impartial. Her goal is to help the two parties resolve the dispute.

A frequent misunderstanding about the Grievance Commission is that it judges who "wins" a dispute. In fact, the Grievance Procedure could be compared more to mediation than to a judicial proceeding. The goal is not to declare a winner and loser, but to help both parties work together to create a new agreement that is acceptable to both and that outlines how they will move forward.

Once both parties have given their presentations, the Commission helps them identify where there are areas of agreement, what the areas of disagreement are, and helps prioritize them. Sometimes less important areas of disagreement can be quickly resolved. Then the two parties need to talk about what can be done about the remaining issues. As with any disagreement, both parties will probably have to compromise to some extent in order to reach an agreement that is acceptable to all. No matter what the outcome, the grievant has the satisfaction of knowing that she has been given every opportunity to present her concerns, have them listened to, and given due consideration. After the resolution of a grievance, the Grievance Commission reports to the Board of Directors, and may make recommendations to the Board based on their findings.

The Grievance Procedure gives every Leader the opportunity to be heard and has been designed to make the experience as positive and stress-free as possible. Each grievance is assigned to a primary facilitator who gives her work on the grievance high priority. Two additional facilitators are assigned to each case. They keep up with all developments so either one could take over if the primary facilitator needed to take time off or leaves the case for any reason, ensuring continuity. The parties and facilitator work together to determine time frames and to assess progress.

If you want to know more, you can read all the details of the Grievance Procedure in the LLLI Policies and Standing Rules, Appendix 40, in the LEADER'S HANDBOOK or the LLLI Web site at www.lalecheleague.org/leaderpages/PSRappend40.html [Note: address has been edited for new website]. Questions may be directed to Eileen Harrison, Grievance Commission Coordinator, at eileenharrison at compuserve dot com.

Editor's Note: The Grievance Commission is open to all Divisions and Affiliates and makes its recommendations directly to the LLLI Board of Directors.

Ilene Traiger has been a Leader for 25 years and lives in Connecticut, USA with her husband. Their children are Annie (26), Sally (22), Clara (22), and Nathan (16). In addition to being a member of the Grievance Commission, Ilene serves as an Associate Coordinator of Leader Accreditation-at-Large. Nan Vollette is the Contributing Editor for "Helping Mothers." Submissions may be sent to Nan at vollette at cox dot net or 132 Powhatan Pkwy, Hampton VA 23661 USA.

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