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News | March 8, 2022

NCO creates unity by ‘simply stating the facts’

By Lesley Atkinson

FORT LEE, Va. – An Army sergeant at Kenner Army Health Clinic here is promoting unity in her workplace with a simple presentation of interesting facts.

Sgt. Michelle Dobbins, a pharmacy technician who joined Team Kenner a year ago when tensions were high due to COVID-19 constraints within the clinic.

"The pharmacies I have been stationed at before have been a close-knit family," said Dobbins. "The big difference is that COVID-19 caused a change in operations, which increased the workload. As a result, staff members were stressed and overworked. I just felt I had to do something to make work a little lighter and less stressful, even if it was doing something small."

The 10-year Soldier donned her thinking cap … literally ... by creating a sort of “did-you-know?” game that would relieve tension and get more healthy topics of dialogue started.

“Studying cultures and different people is something I’ve always enjoyed,” Dobbins observed. “I just leveraged that and started highlighting historical figures and creating our own team-level equal opportunity observance to bring the staff together. Engaging in the discussion allowed them to feel like they are contributing to something good.”

She presents “interesting facts” daily during the morning huddle. She also decorates the break room depending on the monthly national observance theme related to ethnicity or equal opportunity.
“A lot of our conversations start with, ‘has anybody heard this or that?’ Most of the time, they haven’t and that gets the staff involved and encourages them to talk about people in the community, not just the ones found in our history books,” Dobbins said.

“We now have staff members coming to the meetings with stories to share," she continued. “I also noticed people are talking about it outside of work and even sharing it on their social media outlets.”
Diversity is a regular topic of their discussions, and it has generated some robust conversations, according to Dobbins. She said she views Fort Lee as suitable model of inclusion and diversity, and that representation does matter. When leaders highlight an individual's heritage, in her view, it shows they care to the followers.

“As an African-American, I do care about diversity,” she said. “I am proud when I encounter other who feel the same way as me. So, that’s another positive outcome of the Interesting Facts idea. In addition to keeping things light, it keeps diversity represented.”

Dobbins wouldn’t mind if her idea inspires others in the community to do the same in their workspaces.

“Everybody can make a difference in what we do,” she said. “It seems like this is small, but it lets individuals know at the end of the day, we are all the same. The morning facts and discussions are making a difference, and the pharmacy has become, I believe, more united."

Dobbins said she plans to continue presenting her morning facts; and, given its success, she will keep on using it as a teambuilding activity throughout her career.
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