Remaking the Cultural Climate of Your Workplace

I wrote a blog post recently titled 6 Simple Steps to Address Workplace Bullying” which outlined some pretty sound strategic moves that an organization needed to take when tackling the issue of workplace bullying and harassment.  Well, it turns out that if the situation in your organization is so bad that you have to embark on an entire cultural makeover, the number of steps is not six – it’s 24.

Read the 6 Steps to Address Workplace Bullying article here

Elizabeth Roderick’s Report

Twenty-four is the number of recommendations that Elizabeth Roderick’s report “Cultural Change: Gender Diversity and Inclusion in the Australian Federal Police”  contained when it was released to the public earlier last week. It was a damning review of the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

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Almost half of the women working for Australia’s national police force say they have been sexually harassed on the job, according to a report, which called for urgent change. The review of the workplace culture of the AFP also found that more than 60 percent of staff – men and women – reported being bullied. “In the areas of sexual harassment and bullying, urgent action is required,” the report’s author, former sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick said.

The Survey Behind the Report

A survey carried out for the report found that 46 percent of women and 20 percent of men said they had been sexually harassed in the workplace in the last five years.  It noted that: “These percentages are almost double the national average.”

“Sixty-two percent of men and 66 percent of women reported that they have been bullied in the workplace in the last five years.”

Some police workers felt that if they reported harassment it would hurt their careers or result in them being ostracized or victimized while others said complaints could take too long to resolve and questioned their confidentiality. Releasing the report, AFP Commissioner, Andrew Colvin admitted that “things must change” and apologized to staff past and present who had been subjected to unacceptable behavior.

How is massive cultural change accomplished?

Here are the report’s twenty-four recommendations under the banner of six dominant principles:

Courageous Leadership

Principle 1: Successful and sustainable reform depend on strong and courageous leadership

  1. Cultural reform, including the recommendations contained in this Report, must be owned by the Commissioner and the Executive Leadership Committee with responsibility for cultural change embedded into their performance metrics.
  2. The Commissioner and the ELC should select a targeted group of no more than 15 members from across the organization and at different leadership levels to assist with the cultural change process, including the implementation of the recommendations contained in this Report.
  3. The Commissioner and the Senior Leadership Group (SLG) should develop and deliver a clear and strong written statement (signed by all) that articulates the case for change and signals their commitment to the full implementation of the Project’s recommendations. Additionally, the Commissioner and the ELC should present a video to reinforce their strong zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and bullying.
  4. All members of the SES should undertake the Leadership Shadow or an equivalent model, and develop a personal leadership action
  5. The Commissioner should appoint an independent, specialist coach to work with each member of the SLG and the group as a whole to assist them to:
  • implement their personal leadership action plans and
  • foster a culture of respect for difference among colleagues and other members, including in relation to decision-making
  1. The AFP should ensure that recruitment and promotion processes have a strong predisposition to effective people management and leadership skills including the successful completion of appropriate training. Where training has not been able to be facilitated prior to the recruitment/promotion process, the promotion will be deemed to be subject to the successful completion of training on developing effective people management and leadership.
  2. With the assistance of an independent expert and facilitator, the AFP should develop a purposeful storytelling process involving select senior leaders. This should be done in a safe setting. A key objective of the storytelling would be the imperative of the case for change to be understood at senior leadership level.

Effective Performance Management

 Principle 2: Talent promotion requires challenging the biases and assumptions underpinning a traditional view of merit and ensuring effective performance management

  1. The AFP should address misconceptions about merit and the ‘essential’ experience, skills or characteristics of candidates that may preclude women from being considered for roles.
  2. The AFP should review and amend the performance management system.

 Hire Women

Principle 3: Increasing the number of women requires increasing opportunities.

  1. The AFP should improve the attraction and recruitment of women to AFP Police and PSO roles.
  2. The AFP should ensure there is a gender balance.
  3. The AFP should leverage existing female talent – Police, PSO and unsworn – including through a talent program that enables  a transition to key operational roles (for example, identify female talent with leadership potential and rotate them across three key functional areas to give broad and diverse experience).
  4. Given the benefits of cultural renewal and the capacity to bring in new talent, particularly to the sworn population, the AFP should support members taking leave without pay and assist them to seek opportunities for placement in other organizations. The AFP should also create opportunities for training for members who have taken extended leave to facilitate their reintegration, including those who have taken leave to further their professional development and those who have taken time out for caring responsibilities.

 Flexible Work Practices

Principle 4: Flexible work practices are a key capability driver

  1. The AFP should adopt a ‘Flex by Default’ approach across the organization. The refusal of flexible work should be reviewed by a designated member of the Senior Leadership who understands and champions flexible work.
  2. The AFP should ensure infrastructure and messaging are in place to maximize the success of flexible work practices.
  3. The AFP should develop a ‘stay in touch’ and return to work plan for members on extended leave, including maternity and parental leave, that includes offering them access to training or other opportunities when they are on leave and as they transition back to the workplace.

 Zero Tolerance Policies for Harassment, Abuse, and Bullying

Principle 5: Sexual harassment, sexual abuse and bullying damages individuals, divides teams and undermines capability

  1. a) A specialized and independent Office should be established in the AFP to provide support to complainants and to investigate and address sexual harassment and sexual abuse.
  2. b) When an employee has one or more established sexual harassment findings against them, the Commissioner or his delegate should consider the employee’s employment suitability to remain within the AFP. The Commissioner’s delegate should be the Assistant Commissioner who will head the aforementioned specialized, independent Office. The AFP also should advise all employees that there will be a zero tolerance to sexual harassment and all incidents of sexual harassment will be treated as serious matters consistent with Category 3 complaints.
  3. Victims of domestic violence who are members of the AFP should have access to the specialized, independent Office for support and appropriate referral. Where the perpetrator is also a member of the AFP, the Office should take appropriate steps to ensure that the victim is safe in their work environment and with the consent of the victim, the matter is being properly dealt with, including through direct police intervention.
  4. a) The Confidant Network should be strengthened.
  5. b) If it is established that a Confidant breaches a member’s confidentiality that Confidant should be removed from the Network.
  6. All members of the AFP, from recruits to the most senior leaders, should participate in expert, independent training on respectful workplaces.

 Keep Track

Principle 6: Adequate resourcing and regular monitoring and evaluation are essential to measuring and sustaining progress

  1. Progress on cultural reform and the implementation of these recommendations should be measured through key metrics including:
  2. a) The Women’s Participation
  3. b)  The Women’s Experience
  4. c) Uptake of flexible work and career advancement of flexible workers
  5. d) Sexual harassment and bullying (disaggregated by gender)
  6. The ELC should review progress of the implementation of these recommendations and other initiatives of cultural reform, each month and as a standing agenda item at their meeting
  7. Progress on reform should be published across the organization
  8. To ensure progress and sustainable reform, adequate resourcing of the implementation of the recommendations should be provided

That’s how you create massive cultural change in an organization!

Final Words

Socrates said:

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not fighting the old, but on building the new.”

The results of the AFP’s progress are going to be tracked publicly so we will follow their journey.

We wish them well. It’s quite a trip they are embarking on but it’s one that will make the Australian Federal Police a better place for everyone.