Bullying and harassment in the workplace take many forms.
Sometimes, unfortunately, the label is wrongfully given to behaviour that is simply caused by a difference in personalities.
That’s why it can be quite difficult to identify sometimes.
Consequently, and in order to provide clear guidelines for all employees and supervisors, it’s critical to have written definitions regarding inappropriate behaviour in order to eliminate as many misunderstandings and misinterpretations as possible.
It is all about managing people’s expectations.
All of us want to be able to go to work and do our job. We want (and expect) to be employed by an employer who provides a safe workplace that actively promotes dignity between employees, while encouraging everyone to treat each other with respect.
To some this might sound like a foreign land; a place that exists on a completely alien set of workplace rules. Does this workplace setting sound unfamiliar to you? I hope not… because there’s more…
Workplace surroundings should also be expected to include an open, transparent, and fair environment that enthusiastically encourages all employees to act responsibly, and be valued for their skills and abilities.
I think you’ll agree that all of this describes the ‘ideal workplace’; the sort of place you might see in glossy magazines and read about in fictional works.
Unfortunately, it rarely represents the reality of day-to-day life for the average Joe and Jane.
Too many times we encounter gossiping, inappropriate innuendos, physical gestures, exclusionary and isolating behaviour, poorly considered ‘jokes’. Belittling and patronizing comments play out in workplaces where the organizational culture either condones it or turns a willful blind eye.
Each version and variation of this conduct sets up an environment where communication breaks down and relationships become strained.
This, in turn, will make the experience of being at work very challenging for most employees.
I have just completed a series of initial workshops for a client who is desperately trying to turn around a culture where new employees are routinely isolated or ostracized until they are deemed by their co-workers to be worthy of being accepted into their ‘family’.
It sounded so ‘Victorian’ when I first heard what happens. New employees apparently should be seen but not heard!
Holy smokes…I had to check the calendar to make sure that I had not fallen into a Tardis and gone back to 1817 suddenly.
Take a quick look at a shot clip from one of my favourite TV shows when I was growing up: Are You Being Served?
You have heard the expression that ‘Hurt people hurt people’?
This was what was going on in the workplace. Because the current employees had gone through this awful process when they first started, they now believed it was their ‘job’ (and their ‘responsibility’ in some cases..) to make sure that the new hires coming in went through the same hell as well.
It is 2017, isn’t it?
Why can’t we just get along with each other?
Organizations everywhere have a legal and ethical obligation and responsibility to ensure that all employees are not subjected to, or experience, inappropriate and/or unwelcome behaviour.
At an absolute minimum, these steps should include:
- Developing Policies and Procedures: these should reflect applicable national and provincial/state legislation and standards, as well as being clearly defined and articulated by the company. They should also be the product of a consultative dialogue with any union or professional organizations that are represented within the workplace.
- Strategic Communication: this should occur within and throughout the organization regarding the adoption of the policy, and be accompanied by leadership’s examples of commitment and support for professional conduct at all levels.
- Awareness Training: positive and engaging workshops delivered to ensure that all members of the workforce know their responsibilities within the policies and procedures. Additional training should be provided to all supervisors, enabling them to deal with any situations that they become aware of, or that are brought to their attention.
- Available Help: the creation of an internal group of specifically trained and empathetic employees. They should represent a cross section of areas within the organization and be presented as trusted advisers whom employees can go to for advice should they believe that they have been victims of bullying or harassing behaviour. Professional counselling should also be available.
Admittedly, this article just scratches the surface of a massive issue that exists in many workplaces.
However, by following these simple 4 steps, the journey to attaining that glossy magazine lifestyle has begun.