Promote a respectful workplace

Fairness is good for business.

One day in February, each year, is designated ‘anti-bullying day’, aka Pink Shirt Day, in Canada.

pink shirt day

While the focus of the day is bullying in schools, bullying behaviour has no boundaries. Schoolyard bullies, unanswered, take their act forward; to their families, communities, workplaces.

Bullying behaviour in the workplace

A respective workplace seeks to mitigate bullying and harassment behaviours. Across Canada, maintaining a respectful workplace is the law. Here’s a checklist for what a respectful workplace looks like.

A couple years ago, I mediated a dispute between two construction companies. At the time, I was working as a mediator in the BC Provincial Court Mediation Program During the course of the mediation, one of the disputing parties became increasingly belligerent. Their bullying, intimidating, behaviour was escalating the conflict. I was ready to call in the Sheriff, literally. At the same time, my emotions were starting to get the best of me. I’d been triggered, in multiple ways:

  • The safe space I’d created, for a difficult conversation, was being violated
  • My hot button (bullying) was threatening to cloud my role as neutral facilitator
  • The opportunity for the parties to reach mutually-beneficial settlement was at-risk; lose-lose

The mediation room is a workplace. I expect respectful behaviour from everyone in the room, including myself! Respectful behaviour scales to any size and type of workplace. And, woe is the company (Uber) publicly called out on their disrespectful behaviour.

A multi-dimensional response to the complexities of workplace bullying

Whenever I start talking with a client about workplace bullying and harassment, it inevitably leads to a conversation about some associated issue: workplace culture, management-employee relations, organization supports (or lack of), etc.  Relationship problems are usually unresolvable. They can, invariably, be managed, though. often unresolvable.

One way I approach this complexity challenge is to filter the issues, and identify potential solutions, along three levels/dimensions; individual, group, and system.

  1. Individual:What’s going on with the individual? Are they aware of their behaviours, hot buttons, and how they respond to conflict? Do they see alternative courses of action? Individuals can improve their conflict competency thru intentional, guided work. Conflict management tools and coaching can assist. This applies to leaders, too. Leaders can/should serve as behavioural role models.
  2. Group:In the workplace, individual destructive behaviours, left to manifest, can escalate, drawing in co-workers, the team, department… A timely conflict assessment or intervention can clarify issues and concerns, and provide stakeholders with analysis and recommendations, leading to a restoration of workplace relationships and productivity.
  3. System:A systems approach to conflict recognizes that both reactive and proactive responses to conflict are valuable. When a workplace dispute arises, rights- or interest-based process can help resolve the dispute. Management can proactively establish standards, policies, procedures to guide personnel responses to conflict. Training in communications and conflict management can raise the bar for company behaviour. When you calculate the (true) cost of conflict in your organization, the importance of system-wide solutions becomes obvious.

Principle leadership

Taking ownership over the state of respect in a workplace is ultimately the responsibility of the leader. Here are my 12 leadership principles for better workplace relations; a guide for leaders. A respectful workplace is inherent with these principles.

If you need some assistance in your ‘respectful workplace’ journey, contact me.