Archive for August, 2016

Workplace Culture – the Inside Story

Posted on August 16, 2016. Filed under: culture, Leadership and teams |

Inside Story Blue Ribbon Foundation

Attending a fundraiser dinner for the Blue Ribbon Foundation  last week I was inspired by the similarities between what one of the speakers Detective Inspector Andrew Gutske  was saying about the community not the police being the key factor to solving counter terrorism and workplace culture.
Currently in the Australian environment there is a complex and at times overlapping set of legislation, regulations and regulatory bodies who set out to govern workplace behaviour and prevent bullying. There is the Fair Work Act and the Fair Work Commission, as well as WorkSafe and OHS act as well as Brodie’s Law in Vic (and the list goes on for other Australian states)
These regulatory bodies and the legislative or policy framework in my mind mirrors the police frameworks and approach to addressing counter terrorism. There have been some successes yet people still fear terrorism. In the workplace there have been some improvements, improvement orders (check term) and penalties yet many people (managers and employees alike) fear bullying at work.

Let’s get clear on what bullying is, and what it is not.

According to Lawstuff a NSW based webpage Bullying at work is when someone repeatedly victimises, humiliates, threatens or intimidates you AND their actions create a risk to health and safety. Some examples of bullying are:

  • insulting, yelling or swearing at you
  • spreading rumours, gossip or innuendo about you
  • threatening phone calls or text messages
  • physical abuse like pushing, poking or hitting you
  • teasing or playing practical jokes on you at work

Workplace bullying can happen in lots of different ways, including face-to-face, on the company intranet or over the phone, email or SMS.  It can happen to volunteers, work experience students, interns, apprentices, casual and permanent employees.

Bullying doesn’t have to just be making fun of you or being mean to you.  Sometimes it can be stuff that is hurtful but less obvious like:

  • deliberately changing the roster because it inconveniences you
  • continually overloading you with work, or not providing enough work for you to
  • setting deadlines that are impossible to meet, or continually changing the deadline.

What’s not workplace bullying

Some behaviour that feels humiliating, threatening, intimidating or demeaning is not against the law. For example:

  • your employer can give you feedback about your performance.
  • your employer is allowed to transfer, demote, discipline, counsel, retrench or dismiss you (as long as your employer is acting reasonably).
  • your employer can decide not to promote you (as long as they transfer you to another department or provide you with some other benefit).
  • occasional one-off incidents in the workplace, for example if someone loses their temper or shouts or swears.

The DI commented that community communication, networks and observation as well as self monitoring will be the solution. When a community keeps an eye and ear out for each other, takes care of each other and quickly stops out of bounds behaviour quickly. That is community action.

So it could be that workplaces can be the equivalent of community action and here are 5 ways how we as leaders can achieve this.

1. Reduce the “us” and “them” responsibility for preventing bullying and have employees equally accountable as managers. Every individual is aware of the need for them to behave and speak in reasonable fashion to others and there is no abuse of formal or informal positions of power and influence. Bullying is perpetrated by more employees and team members than managers (stats and reference to back this up)
2. Emphasise the place and importance of role models or community leaders to set and model target or acceptable behaviours. These people when respected by the remaining staff have the permission to be a guide as well as a monitor to give corrective feedback. These people may be similar to the Contact Officer Role that many organisations already have set up, although perhaps with s broader level of responsibility.
3. Individuals value their “place” within the community and behave in a respectful manner towards each other because that is a normal outcome of a like minded community. There may not always be agreement yet disagreement is expressed openly, factually and in a respectful manner. The company has a community culture where acceptance is desired and high standards of behaviour and respect are desired and upheld.
4. Training and guidance is given on how to speak, speak up and speak out in ways that match community norms and expectations. Members of the community and workplace are given the skills and tools to behave in ways that stand them in good stead for a variety of circumstances.
5.  Workplace equivalent of neighbourhood watch exists where individuals are observant for risks or potential breaches of community standards. Individuals take care of themselves and also seek to care for others.
The Inside Story of workplace culture is that every single one of us within an organisation needs to accept accountability for the existence of bullying.
Do you accept the Inside Story challenge to create a community at the workplace and to eradicate bullying?

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