The Not-So Hidden Costs of Disrespect at Work – Respectful Workplace Misconduct

If you are sitting  in the comfort of your office reading this article and the sign on the door that indicates that you are ‘Human Resources’, you’ll have a firm grasp on the hard numbers involved when you are dealing with a complaint in respectful conduct: a harassment or bullying complaint.
Issues between two employees need to be dealt with effectively. If not, when that issue eventually walks in through your door as an official complaint, you might want to alert the comptroller, as your budget is about to be hit. And hit hard.

How the Costs Add Up

It’s not just the cost of conducting the investigation that affects the budget, but the impact of the investigation may trigger a reaction from impacted employees. The shock of the investigation could see them taking an increasing amount of time off work, as a result of being stressed.

This will impact other employees who now have to pick up the slack, or perhaps you’ll have to bring in temporary employees to take their place for a while. That will mean training costs, plus a disruption in the atmosphere as a new person arrives on the team.

Investigations Cost – Money, Human Energy, Company Morale and More

Once again, whatever the decision, there will be a cost. The consultant will provide you with an invoice, whereas the price you’ll pay for doing the leg work yourself will be an increasing pile in your in-tray.

You may find that the investigation is just the start. You might end up requiring the services of additional professionals; mediators, lawyers and perhaps counsellors.

There have been several useful and eye-opening studies performed regarding the human impact of a workplace suffering from the albatross of incivility or disrespect. One of the more recent ones was completed by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath, which produced some interesting statistics regarding the victims of harassing and bullying behaviour.

It should be enough for any Human Resources minded person to sit up and take notice.

  • Forty-eight percent  intentionally decreased their work effort

  • Forty-seven percent intentionally decreased their time at work

  • Thirty-eight percent intentionally decreased work quality

  • Eighty percent lost time worrying about the situation

  • Sixty-three percent lost time avoiding the perpetrator

  • Sixty-six percent stated that their performance at work declined, and

  • Seventy-eight percent stated that their commitment to their organization declined.

As you can see, the costs are enormous.

None of these figures have a dollar amount assigned to them, but you just know that the cumulative amount of financial and emotional damage that these sorts of results will inflict on an organization will be damaging, and could be crippling.

In addition, it won’t be just the employees involved in the situation who will be affected.

Others in the workplace will spend time discussing what they know (or don’t know) and giving emotional support and counsel to those involved. People will take sides and the workplace could be polarized.

A good deal of this could be avoided if firm action is taken from the outset.

Get Ahead Of The Problem

I have previously written about the fact that new WorkSafeBC regulations come into effect in British Columbia on November 1st, 2013, regarding bullying and other issues of workplace conduct. The language will be crystal clear for all organizations. Being ahead of things can only help reduce those “not-so hidden costs” down the road.

Some ideas:

  • Develop a written policy regarding the importance of respectful conduct within the workplace

  • Provide training for all employees on the details and importance of that policy

  • Train all of the supervisors and managers in how to identify situations within their workplace. IE: Monitoring what is actually happening is critical, as well as teach your supervisors and managers the importance of role modeling  professional and appropriate behaviour to all employees

  • Establish a procedure for handling issues, and publish the procedures within the policy for everyone to understand

  • Promote and enforce the policy consistently

  • Maintain written records, and

  • Conduct regular reviews.

That’s enough to start with, isn’t it?