Isn’t it a given – we should all expect respect? Why is it then that we are spending considerable time and resources in our businesses ensuring everyone is aware of the importance of a respectful work place? I believe the answer is that if we don’t, we can’t be assured that everyone is on the same page in regards to what a respectful workplace looks like. As a business owner I can’t assume that everyone is aligned with what is and is not respectful behavior. Furthermore, in the course of our work we can unfortunately get caught up in the stresses of life and at times can behave inappropriately. The consequences of bad behavior are significant in terms of our company brand, effect on the team, lost resources and the financial implication of a fine. All it takes is one employee who believes they were hurt or violated because they were treated, in their opinion, badly by their manager; this employee files a claim and posts on social media that they were bullied or harassed and the company’s reputation is questioned. Who wants to work for an organization where there could be the presence of bad behavior? Once this employee files a complaint with Occupational Health & Safety the company is now under audit and investigation which will significantly impact the team, trust in the organization and resources to hopefully disprove the claim. Whether we disprove the allegation or not – the damage is done – you can’t undo the negative impact of a harassment or bullying claim.
So what is an organization to do to protect itself against a potential harassment or bullying claim? Here are a few action items that, in my opinion, are an absolute must for an organization:
- Develop policies on Code of Conduct, Respectful Workplace, Health & Safety and Harassment and Violence. Hold manager and employee workshops where the policies are discussed and questions are asked and answered. Engage managers in scenarios where they do problem solving around potential situations that may come up in the workplace and that could be in violation of the policies. Ensure you have everyone sign off that they have taken the training and have had an opportunity to discuss and ask questions regarding the policies as it is a requirement that business owners demonstrate they have properly trained their workers.
- Ensure you have a process for employees to follow in the event that they experience and/or witness harassment, bullying or violence. Develop an Incident Reporting Form and ensure that everyone knows how to access it and process it.
- Consider offering employees an independent third party resource in the event that internal reporting processes are inappropriate – for example they can’t go to the Owner because the Owner is the perceived problem.
- Make certain that your corporate values are linked to a respectful workplace and ensure all your managers “walk the talk” and demonstrate behaviours consistent with your values.
- If you see inappropriate behavior address it in the moment. Ask to speak to the person in private and discuss specifics about the behavior that was not respectful. Don’t wait to provide the feedback at a later time – candid and immediate feedback is the best course of action.
- Ensure you have a process to investigate claims that are in violation of your policies. Consider a third party investigation for claims that are complex and could have severe negative repercussions if not handled properly.
The importance of good communication and open dialogue around a respectful workplace is critical in today’s work environment. The #MeToo campaign has created awareness and everyone has a heightened level of understanding about what might or might not be appropriate behaviour in the workplace. It has also created nervousness amongst many who may be concerned about interacting and socializing for fear that they may step out of line and create a situation that they will be held accountable for. This has created a negative impact on the team who use to socialize and travel together. Now more than ever it is important to speak openly to these teams to ensure that they are still interacting and communicating and not being fearful of behaviours that were never an issue. Open and candid conversation is required to make sure your teams are continuing to work well together. Building relationships through socialization is important for these teams to thrive. Ensure that they know that they can expect respect but still continue to interact and build commodore with members of the team.
Salopek & Associates has invested in educating our team on the new Occupational Health & Safety legislation that addresses harassment and violence in the workplace. Policies, procedures, an Expect Respect employee hotline, training and investigations are all part of our service offering to ensure our clients are fully supported. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need assistance and/or want to inquire how we can support you in ensuring a Respectful Workplace!