The Power of Outside Perspective
/ Author: Melanie Sykes
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The Power of Outside Perspective

A gentle reminder that your CLAC representatives and stewards are here to provide you with the support you need when the going gets tough

By Melanie Sykes, Representative and Research and Training Specialist

“I don’t need someone in the meeting with me. I can take care of myself.”

“But I know what I am doing. I don’t need to ask anyone for help.”

“I barely know the rep. Why should I trust her?”

As a union representative, I hear these sentiments from members when they bring up old, unresolved issues, or when I discover they have gone into a manager’s office by themselves. I often shake my head, as I can’t understand why members, who have access to trained stewards and representatives who can assist with their problems, would make these choices.

But two recent issues in my personal life shed light on their point of view. 

The first concerned a family disagreement that was getting heated. A relative told me he would gladly play mediator. 

My first thought was, no you aren’t! I am. I’m trained in mediation. You are not! I stewed over what he said and concocted all sorts of snide responses in my head. 

But later, while I was doing some repetitive manual labour, I came to realize it was not possible for me to play the role of mediator in that particular situation. I was too emotionally and mentally (and at that point, physically) invested. I couldn’t try to bring people together and remain neutral when I had a fair amount of skin in the game.

The second issue involved some close friends going through life-changing events. I believed I could use my collaborative problem-solving experience as a representative to bring them together and help them talk it through. 

But I quickly realized their conflict was completely out of my scope of experience. Just as importantly, my close friend, who was involved in the situation, did not want me to play peacemaker. She needed someone to vent to and who would provide a source of distraction, not someone who would try to work out a resolution with the other people involved. 

After thinking about my personal experiences, it makes sense to me why some members would want to try to deal with concerns on their own. But it also reinforced for me the power of asking for assistance from someone outside of the dispute. 

As a representative, my role is to advocate for members. And because I’m not directly involved in the conflict and do not work for their employer, I can offer an outside perspective. 

While everyone wants the satisfaction of solving their own problems, I encourage you to reach out to your stewards and representatives to explore what their training, expertise, and perspective can bring. You may be surprised to find their guidance can offer benefits beyond what you thought you could do on your own.

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