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A New Crew: Meet Johnson’s Anti-Harassment Coordinators

Catherine Ragin Williams |
August 19, 2019

At NASA’s Johnson Space Center, doing the hard things is no alien concept. But sometimes, building an ideal culture and workplace environment — especially at such a large campus and with so many people involved — can pose a challenge.

However, it’s worthwhile for us to take the time to make it happen, because mission readiness and workforce unity bring big goals — like the Moon — much closer into our orbits.

To help promote this effort, Johnson recently appointed a new center anti-harassment coordinator (CAHC), Monica Foley. Together, she and Carol Harvey, also a CAHC, help ensure this nucleus of human space exploration remains one of the best places to work in the federal government.

“I recently heard the phrase, ‘If you see something wrong, do something right.’ Some folks might not know what to do if they experience or observe harassment at NASA. Our JSC anti-harassment coordinators are phenomenal. Carol and Monica make sure that immediate and appropriate action is taken to stop the harassing conduct. Their role is critical in ensuring accountability and due process,” said Deborah Urbanski, director of Johnson’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. “Their goal is always to address harassing conduct at the earliest possible stage, before it becomes severe or pervasive. Workplace harassment should not be a persistent problem that goes unreported. That’s why the new agencywide anti-harassment training will help everyone better understand how to identify and report harassing conduct. We all have a responsibility to make JSC a harassment-free workplace.”


Meet the crew

Johnson’s CAHC team has one year shy of 50 years combined NASA experience, and their backgrounds are quite different. However, each brings their own personal strengths and unique histories to the role of CAHC.

Harvey is chief of the Accounting Services Office, and has worked for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer for the entirety of her career, with a few details to other organizations intermixed.

“I’ve made an attempt to learn from each of my supervisors, whether it was what works or what doesn’t, and use those lessons with people I work with,” Harvey said. “Caring about the whole person helps me as both a supervisor and as a CAHC.”

Foley, meanwhile, is now the assistant to the center director for Management and Integration, but began her career as an Electrical Power Systems Flight Controller for the International Space Station within Flight Operations.

“I was 21 years old when I first began … I was so green!” Foley said. “I thought that once I entered the gates, I was accepted into an alternate universe where everyone only cared about the mission of advancing the human race through space exploration. What I’ve learned is that we have not yet formulated the perfect equation that zeros out the –isms of society — ageism, sexism, racism — but if we are to achieve the pinnacles of success, we’ll have to, because cognitive diversity matters.”


Why — and how — to do better

It may be easy to shrug at notions like workplace unity, but it’s crucial to our continued success. If the International Space Station has taught us anything, it’s that environments are everything.

“Unconscious bias, micro-aggressions and micro-inequities are, quite frankly, the most ubiquitous forms of discrimination, and are often labeled as harassment,” Foley explained. “If we each accept the inherent responsibility of being more mindful that each of us has very simple desires: to be respected, to have a voice and to have a choice, then a positive workplace culture is inevitable.”

But what if your environment is not positive? What then?

“First, presume positive intent,” Harvey said. “Most people don’t intend to be difficult, harassing [or your favorite negative behavior]. Ask questions to help them clarify. For example, ‘Can you explain that in more detail?’ Second, practice respectful conflict encounters. Conflict is healthy when the result is an understanding of multiple options, and participants walk away knowing why an option was chosen or a decision was made.”

Sometimes, the simple answer is to just talk it out.

“Have a conversation with your team member who may be totally unaware of his behavior, or its impact on you,” Foley added. “Some folks are just socially awkward, or snarky, because that’s their sharpest personality trait. Others will allow their insecurities to surface in negative actions, immature dialogue and bullying. Keep talking.”

But, if talking isn’t enough — there are many avenues Johnson employees can turn to for assistance.

“Talk to your supervisor,” Harvey said. “Be ready with examples and suggestions for different behaviors than the ones exhibited.”

Above all, “Don’t accept the role of victim,” Foley said. “If you can’t reach your team member, talk to your management, their management, Human Resources, a CAHC. NASA has provisions to ensure our workplace is safe and healthy. You have a voice and a choice at JSC. Our center directors lead by example with a fundamental platform, integrity [and] the expectation is that everyone in the JSC family will follow suit.”

Hostile environments are only truly beneficial in space, as scientists observe how certain phenomena react in a microgravity test bed. Here at Johnson, to be daring, we must first be inclusive and welcoming of diverse opinions and personalities.

“We are working at a time of distinction in our nation’s history. We’ve just celebrated the Apollo generation,” Foley said. “We are the Artemis generation, and with that comes a bold challenge and a significant responsibility. We are who the world will celebrate in 50 years! If we can’t set the standard, who can?” 

What can you do? Take the new gamified agencywide anti-harassment training to ensure your actions are conducive to the workings of an elite team shooting for the Moon.

CAHC Monica Foley, who is also the assistant to the center director for Management and Integration. Image Credit: NASA/Allison Bills
CAHC Monica Foley, who is also the assistant to the center director for Management and Integration. Image Credit: NASA/Allison Bills
CAHC Carol Harvey, who is also chief of the Accounting Services Office. Image Credit: NASA/Allison Bills
CAHC Carol Harvey, who is also chief of the Accounting Services Office. Image Credit: NASA/Allison Bills