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AOC is not running a ‘sheltered workshop' for staff, says chief

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HC Online | 27 Apr 2017, 11:40 AM Agree 0
The Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates has been accused of demeaning employees with disabilities
  • Bernie Althofer | 28 Apr 2017, 07:15 AM Agree 0
    A recent discussion with a manager highlighted the complexities involved in managing and leading a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural team. Communication and the way messages are delivered and interpreted can lead to adverse conflict that leads to damage to individual and organisational reputations.

    Whilst it is possible that some sayings are used in a 'jocular' manner, offence can and is easily caused resulting in complaints. As was indicated in the conversation with the manner, it appears that for some managers and workers (for various reasons), there is a lack of clarity about what is and what is not acceptable. In some cases, there is a close association between manager and worker and sometimes the social environment 'allows' and even encourages behaviour and language that is in direct contravention of an organisation's Code of Conduct or other document that prescribes workplace behaviour and conduct.

    Unfortunately, it also seems that whilst many organisations expect managers and workers at all levels to complete training, the delivery methods may not allow those individuals to discuss and gain a deep appreciation or comprehension about what might be offensive and why others would find it offensive. Passing off bad behaviour and conduct as 'that is just the way it is' is no longer acceptable. As some organisations may discover, individuals are documenting incidents involved inappropriate behaviour and conduct, and are prepared to make a complaint (sometimes at great personal cost).

    Organisations need to have systems and processes in place to maintain currency of knowledge for all managers and workers, irrespective of their level in that organisation. Simply continuing to act the same way and use behaviours or conduct that do not align with a contemporary organisation may only result in adverse publicity. Dismissing seemingly 'trivial' or 'minor' incidents as the actions of whingers and 'malcontents' without conducting some form of an investigation may result in external reviews being conducted. At the same time, organisations can learn from other reviews conducted in other organisations where complaints have identified systemic and ingrained cultures of bullying and other counterproductive workplace behaviours.

    Investing in proactive and preventive strategies may appear costly for decision makers. However, reactive approaches often lead to increased costs associated with downtime, lost productivity, increased claims and damage to reputation to name a few. When clients or prospective clients perceive that an organisation or even part of the organisation e.g. leadership is toxic or unwilling to address claims related to bullying, that client base may seek alternative business providers.

    In a time when businesses may seek to trade on an international level, reputation should be everything. How organisations treat their people and how they deal with and manage complaints may be taken into consideration when due diligence is conducted. Some companies may ask the question "Do I want my company linked to an organisation that condones or tolerates bullying?" A failure to demonstrate corporate and social responsibility when it comes to people, may determine the success or otherwise of an organisation.

    When any organisation becomes embroiled in managing and leading through the fallout from bullying allegations and incident, the recovery process for all involved may be just as damaging as the initial incident, but for different reasons. Preventing and detecting counterproductive workplace behaviours can be difficult if an organisation is not able to 'see' the problem. When there is finally an admission that there is a problem, the scope and magnitude becomes overwhelming with substantial time being invested into 'damage control'.

    Building an organisation where individual at all levels have the power and the confidence to report and discuss counterproductive workplace behaviours can involve a considerable change in culture. However, this needs to be lead from the top and unless there is willingness and commitment for this to happen, change may take considerably longer. Those lower down the organisation should not be accepting and should work towards creating an organisation where bullying and other counterproductive behaviours are 'driven out' and made to be unacceptable. Individuals at all levels need to ask themselves "What is my role in preventing and detecting such behaviours?" "Do I keep quiet or do I stand up and speak out and hope that I don't become the next target?"
  • Catherine Cahill | 28 Apr 2017, 10:53 AM Agree 0
    Whilst on the surface it looks like the AOC is acting, I would question the ability for 3 Judges to conduct a workplace investigation. I appreciate they absolutely have the skills to hear evidence and draw conclusions, but uncovering and understanding the sources and reasons for workplace bullying requires a totally different approach.

    The skills HR/Investigation professionals employ to encourage reluctant employees to provide truthful information in the process of having confidential meetings, allow us to uncover information that would never come to light in less supportive circumstances. A formal pseudo courtroom will not, and cannot, achieve the same outcome.
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