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Spotlight on counter-productive workplace behaviours

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HC Online | 18 Sep 2012, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Most Australian employees have displayed at least one type of ‘counter-productive workplace behaviour’, according to new organisational psychology research.
  • Arielle Nakache-Moulay / Risk to Business | 20 Sep 2012, 12:25 PM Agree 0
    It is truly startling to discover how many employers will turn a blind eye to workplace bullying and sexual harassment, to the detriment of their employees and employer brands. Regarding sexual harassment, our extensive report on Workplace Bullying reveals:

    20.8% of men surveyed reported being the victim of sexual harassment

    79.2% were women

    40% of people experiencing sexual harassment did nothing about it …. Instances are therefore under-reported

    In only 27% of cases reported did the organisation make things better.

    Once reported the victim's employer did nothing or turned a blind eye in 52% of cases.

    And, in 5% of the cases things got worse.

    Why are organisations not doing more to mitigate these matters before they get out of control?
  • Bernie Althofer | 25 Sep 2012, 08:27 AM Agree 0
    The million dollar question has been posed. At the risk of sounding like a heretic, I would suggest that there is no one reason why more is not being done to mitigate the matters. I have suggested in other forums that in some cases, executives do not know the extent of the problem because some matters are not officially reported, and in some cases the workplace culture is such that reporting such matters is 'frowned upon'.

    Despite the existence of policies and procedures and some training, the workplace culture can be a key factor in how the various forms of counterproductive workplace behaviours are managed. Whilst there seems to an increasing amount of data showing the extent of the problem, if workers do not feel safe in reporting the incidents, or if managers/supervisors lack the appropriate skills and abilities to manage incidents, then the incidents may be 'swept' under the carpet. This makes data collection difficult, and in turn, makes it difficult for those executives who manage with data, in that the full extent of the problem is not being identified.

    It might well be the case that part of the solution lies in performance management. If managers and supervisors had their performance assessed on how they manage people and conflict and the workplace culture (along with productivity measures) then they might turn their focus to being proactive. However, this would also mean that the workplace culture (in some organisations) might also need to change. Getting officers and workers to understand the physical, psychological and financial implications, along with the damage to individual and organisational reputations is always difficult when a prevailing workplace culture tolerates such behaviours to the point of acceptance.

    The tone of the organisation can be set at the top, but it has to be carried through at all levels, so if middle managers and supervisors are not prepared to follow this tone, negative practices can develop and engulf the organisation just like the creature from the black lagoon, or a pea soup fog.
  • Bernie Althofer | 25 Sep 2012, 03:58 PM Agree 0
    What is the role of auditors in detecting workplace bullying? In my view, they can play a key role as they are independent (and at least perceived to be) and can and do provide unfettered advice regarding the level of risk exposure that officers may face.

    However, given the complexity of issues involved in workplace bullying, and allowing for the decisions being made by Courts, Commissions and Tribunals, auditors are faced with a need to maintain currency of knowledge.

    'Auditing' workplace bullying is not just about the policy and procedures, but also includes a raft of related HR, operational, financial and IT systems and processes.

    How then do auditors acquire the knowledge to conduct an effective audit on this topic? They may seek advice from HR or even Harassment Referral Officers, Risk Managers and other organisational 'owners'. However, it some cases if might be necessary to seek external advice and guidance on the various nuances of this topic. It might also be the case that whilst the workplace culture plays a significant part in whether bullying festers away undetected and an audit is not conducted, auditors may not be able to provide an accurate assessment of the level of risk exposure.

    Unfortunately, auditors themselves may find they have to ask hard and difficult questions, and even make difficult recommendations they identify critical exposures in the workplace culture.
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