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Employers not doing enough to prevent inappropriate behaviour

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HC Online | 13 May 2011, 12:10 PM Agree 0
There is a massive disconnect between corporate policy on office behaviour and culture and the realities of what is actually occurring in the workplace, according to workplace law firm People + Culture Strategies.
  • Dean McDonald | 18 May 2011, 05:33 PM Agree 0
    I believe that, within the VET sector of the Australian Training Industry, this issue is problematic. I think the concern for me as an employer is the rapport built between trainer and learner, and the unintentional (professional) relationship that is formed based on the nature and context of learning. I do agree that the use of 'social media' for personal interaction, which has formed from a professional (trainer-learner) association, is inappropriate behaviour; however, there should be an 'open door' communication policy within the workplace, which enables trainers and other employees to make an informed decision on the sometimes 'blurred' lines between; what is personal and what is professional. I am unsure if I have answered the question, or made correct comments, but in any situation, it is fraught with danger. I hope this insight helps.

    Dean McDonald
    Managing Director
    Workplace Skills Australia
  • Bernie Althofer, Managing Director, EGL I Assessme | 19 May 2011, 05:47 PM Agree 0
    There is little doubt that workplaces can be a breeding ground for allegations relating to many forms of inappropriate behaviour, non compliance with organisation policy or procedures and unwanted media attention. However, the question remains - why do minor incidents blow up into litigation. Could it be that managers and supervisors (and even workers) at many levels are not exposed to learning and development opportunities where they test their own understandings and beliefs with those being promoted by the organisation? As indicated in this article, simply having a policy (on any matter) generally does not provide sound protection unless a range of other actions have been implemented. Conducting regular training sessions, using support network personnel, tying 'volunteer' roles into performance management processes, looking for a return on investment, having an audit/evaluation process to test whether or the policy is actually being implemented and followed should all be part of the risk management strategy and controls. However, in reality, it seems that unless a business case is presented for the continuation of a program that involves learning, budgetary restrictions may see the program slow down. There are numerous risks and hazards to be managed in workplaces and without relevant and appropriate data to support a case for more investment, getting a stronger commitment to taking a proactive and preventive approach might not happen. In some cases, there may be a thought process that suggests "it hasn't been a problem yet, so why worry about it". Given the number of individuals who seem to fall prey to various forms of inappropriate behaviour and do not report it, there is the possibility that organisations are sitting on a potential minefield of litigation and grievances. Then again, how do we know how big the problem is without data, and if individuals choose not to report an incident, does that mean we should sit by and just wait? I suspect not.
  • Isaac | 23 May 2011, 11:31 AM Agree 0
    In my previous workplace we had a senior manager who was perennially in a bad mood. Whenever she visited our site our joy and motivation walked out the door. Her talent to rain on our parade was incredible.We all had to dance to her tunes. If she was in a good mood we were all supposed to transform and match her good mood. If she was in a bad mood you could not joke or smile and display your happiness. She didnot care if the employees had a bad day.Our productivity generally dropped when she was around. It was stressful. In one month 5 staff members left because of her. HR and the top management didnot care. She was that powerful.

    My question is what can HR do about it? Should HR attempt to change the Managers behaviour or should they attempt to help employees cope with the situtaion?

    In my experirnce HR doesnot want to know. Thats one of the reasons why HR is pereceived as a toothless tiger and is looked down upon. They are neither capable of helping the manager or the employees.
  • Bernie Althofer | 24 May 2011, 02:01 PM Agree 0
    I suspect that in cases such as that identified by Isaac, this manager has a) been rewarded for getting results b) does not not the impact their behaviour is having c) is aware, but believes that her conduct is appropriate d) her manager has not 'confronted' her in a performance discussion regarding the loss of personnel and decline in productivity e) the staff have felt powerless in reporting her conduct or behaviour. Whilst HR might 'own' the policies and procedures relating to all forms of performance and conduct, managers and supervisors (in this case) her line manager have a responsibility for addressing her performance. If the line manager does not know what to do, by all means they should take advice from HR, but not pass the task over to HR. It is a double edged sword. Managers and supervisors believing that it is the role of HR to do the dirty work, and managers/supervisors not being provided with the skills or expertise to deal with these managers. In the meantime,the workers (employees) wait for something positive to happen, all the time being subjected to inconsistent work practices. In some cases, it is entirely possible that the 'perennial bad news bear' has considerable conflict going on in their life, is out of their depth and does not know (or want) to change. In times like this, they need a mentor, and they need someone who can provide them with guidance on how to be a better people person. The real downside if these types of managers are not managed is the flow on effect, not only through the workforce, but into family relationships. Making top management care about situations like this is not easy so you need to pick your marks carefully. Talking to people who have been in a similar situation, it appears that whilst an organisation is getting good results from managers like this, they are reluctant to be proactive and manager the observable behaviours i.e. causes of mood swings etc. In some cases, this failure can lead to a high churn rate (20%) over 12 months so it only adds to the costs of doing business and reducing the level of customer service.
  • Bernie Althofer | 27 May 2011, 01:27 PM Agree 0
    How should the contact officer network be used? Should the contact officers only provide advice, support and guidance to the aggrieved, the alleged harasser and to managers/supervisors? In many organisation, the contact officers will be personnel who 'volunteer' to undertake roles such as Harassment Referral Officers or Peer Support Officer. Some organisations may have explicit instructions regarding one individual undertaking both roles. However, the question becomes - how does an organisation measure the effectiveness of the support network? Some organisations may place a requirement on the 'volunteer' to include performance indicators relevant to the contact officer role in their performance agreement. Some individuals may argue that they can't be forced to include such indicators. If a person has a 'full time' role where certain activities are expected to be performed or undertaken, how does that individual justify to their line manager/supervisor the time they need to do the proactive/preventive work (training, presentations) and the reactive work (advice, support and guidance). How does a manager demonstrate that they are meeting 'due diligence' requirements for the organisation? Establishing and maintaining support networks can be expensive and can involve diverting 'volunteers' away from their primary role. Knowing about the contribution that contact officers are making can help with strategic decision making regarding the allocation of addition resources and funding, and it might also help in making more informed risk management decisions.
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