At the 2019 Professional Women Controllers, Inc. (PWC) National Training Conference, NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert moderated a panel with Professional Standards member Garth Koleszar and Potomac TRACON (PCT) (Acting) Air Traffic Manager and Professional Standards Workgroup member Haven Melton about the RESPECT initiative. RESPECT is a collaborative effort between NATCA and the Agency to maintain a workplace where all employees are supportive of their peers, treated with dignity and respect, tolerant of differences, and demonstrate empathy and compassion towards one another.
“The goal of RESPECT is to create a workplace environment where we can work together in a way to reduce conflict and ultimately make the system safer,” Koleszar said. “While we may not always get along, or like each other, it’s important that we be able to work together for safety.”
To begin the panel, Gilbert discussed how the Union and the Agency began the RESPECT initiative. She talked about why it remains important and also about diversity and the importance of understanding each other’s differences.
“How do we improve workplace relationships to improve and maintain safety?” Gilbert asked the two panelists. Koleszar replied, “If we tell people what they should and shouldn’t do, we get pushback. If we can convince people there is a greater goal that we can achieve together, then we have a greater likelihood of being successful. Organizationally we have matured and are ready to collaborate for the benefit of safety all around.”
Melton added, “From the management side, anything that poses a risk to safety needs to be eliminated. A distracted controller is a dangerous controller. We have to create the environment where a controller can be their best.”
Koleszar also explained the professional standards program, of which RESPECT is a part of. “What should we be embracing and striving for?” he said. “As we work to achieve those goals, we must make sure we have tools in place to be able to fix issues that come up.”
Gilbert asked the panelists what success in achieving professional standards goals would look like. Melton replied, “Conflict will always be there. But how we handle it collaboratively is how we will measure success.” Koleszar added, “Collaboration is a process, and RESPECT is an attitude. If you look at the concept of the Foundations of Professionalism, those things fall under that umbrella partnership, like Turn Off Tune In, ATSAP, and more. Those are all part of a system that says, ‘How do we understand each other’s dynamics in a way that continues to move the National Airspace System forward?’”
Learn more about the RESPECT initiative and the Professional Standards program here.