Equal Opportunity part of being a leader

  • Published
  • By Alma C. Birkel
  • Director, Equal Opportunity Office
The world around us is evolving and today's Air Force faces a spectrum of challenges. Expectations from all Air Force military members and civilians are high and one of the most demanding challenges is the expectation of professionalism. Along with professional behavior we must ensure compliance with Equal Opportunity statutes which promote fairness for all.

This article is a periodic reminder that the Air Force's "Core Values" are the foundation of our agency. "Integrity, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do," is the commitment all Air Force employees must make to ensure an effective organization. Most importantly, we must never forget that leaders set the standard for excellence and practicing equality for all is essential for setting and maintaining that standard.

When employees or leaders accomplish their daily assignment of duties they should also keep in mind that cultivating a strong team takes trust, teamwork and professionalism. Equal Opportunity, or EO, begins with leaders setting the example for their subordinates. When Air Force leaders take on the assignment to become a manager, they must first start out by establishing professional boundaries. The mere perception of a leader/manager/supervisor behaving in an unethical, unfair or unprofessional manner has the tendency to cause utmost disruption on an organization and leads upper management and the employees away from Team Hill's very important mission. Serving as an Air Force leader is a difficult task and managers/supervisors must constantly demonstrate flexibility and resilience; they must seek and accept constructive criticism; balance change, personalities and continuity. They must inspire trust by maintaining a high standard of integrity by displaying credibility in the eyes of their subordinates. Leaders must maintain focus, intensity and persistence, even under adversity. They must constantly demonstrate professionalism even when nobody is looking. Professionalism must be consistent with the Air Force core values listed above. Most importantly, managers must lead by example! They must show their employees that their actions and words foster and strengthens the Air Force mission. If you are a manager, your personal leadership is the key to our agency's success. It's very unfortunate, but unprofessional behavior from managers can be extremely disruptive to our Air Force mission and to all members who make up Team Hill. This type of behavior often undermines teamwork and employee morale and does not belong in our workforce.

The Ogden Air Logistics Center EO mission is to ensure equal opportunity compliance and champion the center commander's EO policy of zero tolerance for unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment for agency employees. In an effort to ensure EO compliance, the EO office promotes proactive approaches such as clear, constant and timely communications, EO organizational Out and Abouts, EO training, news articles and Unit Climate Assessments, but this is just a beginning. The EO office must rely on our resilient managers to enforce fairness throughout our workforce. Special thanks to all the center's senior leaders/managers/supervisors for taking on the tough responsibility of maintaining a positive and productive working atmosphere.

One last reminder, it's important to realize that all Equal Opportunity violations detract from mission readiness. Any employee using derogatory terms, making offensive jokes or negative comments based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age or disability or engaging in sexual harassment essentially sends the message of disrespect and unprofessionalism. The Department of Defense Human Goals states, "Our nation was founded on the principle that individuals have human dignity and worth." To treat others with less is unacceptable.

Communication, trust, preferential or disparate treatment by a manager, non-selection for promotions, and erosion of "team" are the majority of reasons people seek assistance from our office. Managers and supervisors can eradicate issues by keeping communication open, re-energizing their teams, recognizing people formally and informally and most importantly treatment of all employees with consistency and fairness.

We are the best Air Force in the world because we embrace diversity with global impact.

Remember, respect for all is absolutely critical to strengthening the Air Force's core values and in achieving Team Hill's daily mission.

Just a reminder that Equal Opportunity builds balance in our workforce and allows employees to focus on the mission, to fly, fight and win!