Change in the Workplace

HOW DO CUNY employees — or workers anywhere — deal with change at the office? How do they handle new protocols, new supervisors, new schedules — or a new way of working online?

The short answer: Change is hard.

But change in the workplace, experts say, also is inevitable.

With this in mind, CUNY’s Office of Professional Development and Learning Management held a workshop on “Understanding and Managing Organizational Change” for 19 managers and supervisors from seven CUNY senior and community colleges. A registrar, an athletics director, a human resources specialist and a buildings and grounds supervisor, among others, attended the November session.

Bronx Community College associate registrar Karen Thomas presents her group’s diagram of dealing with change.

“Some people like change. Some people are energized by it,” said session leader Ouida Vendryes, president/CEO of Resolution Management. But many, she added, “experience change as a loss. So there needs to be some acknowledgement of that. . ”

The session included role-playing, a film, lectures, discussions and a quiz.

PDLM is part of CUNY’s Office of Human Resources Management. It provides training and professional development opportunities designed to enhance the knowledge, skills and competencies of CUNY employees who want to sharpen their professional tool kit. For information about more opportunities visit:

In January, courses in business writing for professional staff and communications for administrative staff were held.  “But the majority of people who participate in our training are not managers and supervisors,” said PDLM Director Rhonnye Ricks. The most popular courses with administrative staff include: “Effective Office Management for Today’s Workplace,” “Managing Multiple Priorities,” “People Smart Strategies for Positive Workplace Relationships” and “Attitude Is Everything,” which is also taught by Vendryes.

Although University Academic Affairs provides faculty development opportunities, Ricks added that “faculty members are particularly fond of three of our professional development courses: ‘Train the Trainer,’ ‘Working with Generations X,Y&Z’ and ‘Fundamentals of Presentations.’ We usually have one faculty member in each session.” PDLM also provides technology courses and University-mandated training in areas such as sexual harassment prevention, workplace violence prevention and passenger van driving.

At November’s session on “Understanding and Managing Organizational Change,” participants spoke about their own experiences.

LeRoy Smith, coordinator of the print shop at Brooklyn College, described how he managed change years ago, a vintage tale that nevertheless is instructive today.

When the accounting functions of his department went from paper to computer, he had one employee who was particularly resistant. So he asked her to sit for two days with another employee who liked computers.

“She did no work, she just sat and watched for two days,” Smith said about the employee devoted to her paper system.

“And at the end, she said, ‘You know, it seems easier this way. I don’t have to do it by hand two or three times.’ ”

Marlene Ranjitsingh, right, and Brooklyn College admissions coordinator Michele Tuit test their observational skills.

Wendy Thornton, executive director of student services and conduct at CCNY, spoke about an experience she had working at a college, outside the CUNY system. It was not a faculty position, but she was also asked to teach. She resisted. But a mentor urged her on.

She says she was told that “as a professional there are things you are going to have to do that you don’t want to do but it’s required’…  that has stuck with me through the years.”

In speaking about changes at the top, Therese LeMelle, director of communications at Bronx Community College, noted that “for us, a new president is a positive change. My office is receiving more support than previously.”

In a role-playing exercise, participants were asked to find partners, face each other and then turn back to back and change three things about their appearances. The purpose was to show how small and hard-to-perceive changes can be perplexing.

“When we change things subtly, people think we have a hidden agenda,” Vendryes said. “You don’t want to do these subtly. You want to put it out there.”

Vendryes also reminded the participants to let others speak “one microphone at a time.”

Marlene Ranjitsingh, director of finance and administration at Kingsborough Community College, agreed.

“Sometimes, it’s good just to listen to what someone is saying,” she said. “I find a lot of times as human beings we just don’t listen.”

Included among Vendryes’ other tips for dealing with change were these: Expect it. Look for it. Involve staff. She also suggested “giving choices when possible but be clear and acknowledge that all ideas may not be used.” And finally “keep focused and moving, and assess performance.”

Women’s History Month – A Perfect Time To Work Toward a Better Future

March is women’s history month. At CUNY, staff and faculty as they commemorate women’s achievements will also be learning from one another and striving to make new history.

Among the events will be the screening of a documentary on battling breast cancer  and a seminar on investing and saving strategies developed for women.  Stories on these events are included in this newsletter.

Would you like to tell us about a woman’s event held during March in the next issue of “For Your Benefit?” If so, please send an e mail to  Make sure the event benefits CUNY staff and faculty. We may not be able to mention every suggestion.

CUNY Battling Breast Cancer

Sarah Porath, a producer for CUNY TV,  is again screening her documentary “I’m Not Alone,” at CUNY.

The film depicts Porath’s battle with breast cancer and how she became a survivor. Others in the CUNY community also tell their stories.

The film will be shown at the College of Staten Island on March 15. It will be part of an event co-sponsored by the college’s Women’s Center, Wellness Program and Hillel.

Postcards and posters with important phone numbers for those battling breast cancer — including one for low-cost mammography — have been distributed to more than 80 CUNY Student Services offices.         Porath notes that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she felt “confusion, helplessness and fear.” To combat this, she turned to the medium she knows best – film.  She then used her film to help educate others. She credits her co-workers at CUNY TV  with giving her the courage to do so.

“I could not have done this without the support at CUNY TV,” she said.“People here were very understanding, and they provided a safe environment so that I could actually do this.”

For more information go to

Investing and Saving Strategies for Women
An event that will help women who work for CUNY to make their own financial history — and perhaps change their lives — will be held.
March 14 from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m., Manisha Thakor, a nationally recognized financial expert for women, will lead a seminar on successful investing and saving strategies developed especially for women. This TIAA-CREF event will be held at its corporate office at 730 Third Ave. in Manhattan.  Come to learn how to make sure your money is working as hard as you do.

To reserve a spot, call 800 732-8353 (M-F 8am – 8p.m.) or go to to register and to see a video with Thakor.

As a preview,here is some of Thakor’s  philosophy on women and money and some of her own history from her website at

“While personal finance is important for both genders, it is extra important for us ladies. Statistically speaking, we earn less, live longer and spend more time out of the workforce caring for family than men. As a result, two thirds of women over the age of 65 today rely upon meager Social Security payments as their primary source of income. I focus on women because I want to change these gut-wrenching statistics. More personally, I grew up a nerdy, book-loving girl in a mid western town where cheerleaders ruled. Lacking the prom queen gene, I learned early on that a man is not a financial plan and to rely upon myself. Thankfully, my wonderful parents gave me the ultimate gift of financial literacy. As a result, a whole world of choices opened up for me, and I’ve gone on to have both a rewarding personal and professional life. I now want to pay that gift forward through teaching, writing and speaking about the basics of personal finance for women who want to put themselves in the financial driver’s seat of their lives. The overarching umbrella I use for my work is something I call MoneyZen. MoneyZen is a joy-based approach to personal finance, integrating practical advice with spiritual wisdom to help us create unconditional financial peace of mind.”

Progress on Health Care for Adjuncts

Because of substantial efforts by the University, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recently released budget proposal includes funds for a CUNY adjunct health insurance program. “We are grateful for its inclusion in the executive budget,” Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said.

Many adjuncts could  — for the first time – be eligible for health care coverage from the University if the governor’s proposal is approved by the state legislature for the new fiscal year, which begins April 1. Additional details remain to be ironed out, including obtaining New York City approval and a successful conclusion to negotiations with the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY.

At a public session last fall, Chancellor Goldstein noted: “We have been working for some time now on providing health insurance for adjuncts who teach continuously over several semesters … and I will be incorporating into the university’s budget request for the first time funding to support health benefits for these adjuncts.” The University’s budget request followed the unanimous adoption of a recommendation by the Board of Trustees.

The governor’s budget proposes a $71 million increase in state aid for CUNY that includes  $57 million for fringe benefits for CUNY employees.

At a Feb. 6 meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees Standing Committee on Fiscal Affairs, Associate Vice Chancellor for Budget and Finance Matthew Sapienza explained that the proposed $57 million increase “also includes funding for adjunct health insurance, which, as you know, was part of our budget request for the current year, and so we’re very pleased to see that was funded as part of the governor’s proposal for next year.”

Cut Your Health-Care Costs with HCFSA

Initials can sometimes drive us to distraction. But if we know what they mean, they can be very helpful.

What is HCFSA?  It’s  the Health Care Flexible Spending Account – a  program which allows CUNY employees to pay for some out-of-pocket health care expenses from earnings before taxes are deducted.

It’s a good deal because it is funded through pre-tax payroll deductions, thereby reducing your taxable income.

For 2012, it’s been made even better.

Under a previous “use -it -or -lose it” rule, deductions contributed but not claimed by the end of the year would be forfeited. Now there is a grace period, an additional time period during 2013 when medical services are covered. It runs out March 15, 2013.

There is also  a “claims run-out period.”  This allows you  to file claims for services until May 2013. Those services though, have to have been provided during 2012 or during that early 2013 grace period.

Actually, it’s simpler than it sounds. Here are two examples as guides.

1.You received a medical service during 2012 but did not receive an insurance explanation of benefits before Dec. 31, 2012. Not to worry. You now have until the last day of the claims run out period – May 31, 2013 – to obtain your explanation of benefits and submit your claim.

2. You received a medical service during the grace period but did not receive an explanation of benefits until after that period ran out on March 15, 2013. Again, not to worry. You have until May 31, 2013 to get the paperwork and submit your claim.

After May 31, 2013, any amount remaining from your 2012 deduction will be forfeited.

More questions? Your Human Resources office can help.