Here we are in 2017 and witnessing another “fall from power”, the movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein is the current headline and not long ago Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Travis Kalanick and the list goes on and on. The difference with Weinstein is that Hollywood celebrities are speaking out after decades of harassment, abuse of power and constant bullying creating a hostile work environment. Somewhere along the way, we’ve become a culture of pervasive bullying and harassment. The upside is that social media is helping spread the word under the latest hashtag #MeToo.
This begs the question, what are the collective “we” going to do differently this time? CEO’s and other leaders have an opportunity to check their p’s and q’s and assess what kind of culture is being promoted in their workplace and make immediate changes if need be. If there is going to be real change, it requires all of us to be more aware and be willing to speak up. Is this the trigger for the public to become less tolerant of bullying and harassment in the workplace– less willing to accept it as a part of societal norms?
I believe we are at a tipping-point. If so, this means that all types of bullying, abuse and harassment must no longer be considered acceptable behavior as part of our American culture and certainly not tolerated in our workplaces.
Let’s start with, if you see something, say something. Most of us have been guilty of this, turning a blind eye to what we know is unacceptable behavior. This requires all of us to make some difficult changes if we want to see a culture of civility, respect and kindness.
The long-term solution requires men and women to stand together and say “no, enough is enough.” It requires self-respect because when we respect ourselves, it’s easier to respect others. It requires awareness training to first clearly understand and recognize bullying and harassment behaviors and second how to change those behaviors. Furthermore, it requires policies and procedures that state a zero tolerance and that everyone is clear about specific protocols to take regardless of industry.
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What Can YOU Do to recognize and Stop Bullying or Harassment? Below are some strategies to use.
- Ensure policies and procedures are clear. Do your policies and procedures address respecting one another in the workplace? Have you provided clear expectations regarding interactions among coworkers? Is there a clear channel for reporting workplace bullying or harassment?
- Create a safe environment for people to speak up. Make it simple to report bullying or any abuse without retribution. This includes easy access to communication channels and support systems including anonymous feedback options. Be sure it has a disciplinary policy for instigators of bullying. Include Human Resources and Legal to ensure its comprehensive.
- Implement training. Provide training for all employees in how to prevent, recognize, and respond to incidents of harassment, aggression, and bullying in their workplace including the consequences. Orientation training isn’t enough.
- Be a role model. Treat your employees with respect, and promote respectful interactions within your teams. Leaders and managers set the overall tone for workplace behavior. Employees are watching you and learning what is acceptable and what is not.
- Listen, the walls have ears. Pay attention to employee concerns both formally and informally. Be approachable and open to hearing about aggressive, or bullying type behaviors whenever it occurs. Take appropriate action and follow through on progressive discipline.
- Know that it starts with you. Take a personal inventory of how you are showing up at work. Practice respectful and kind behavior in your daily interactions. Are you treating others with respect throughout your communication channels?
- Communicate. If you’re being bullied or harassed, ask the person to stop (if it’s safe to discuss it with the person)? If not, then follow company protocols.
- Raise the red flag. While you may not be the target of a bully, if you witness aggressive or abusive behavior, say something—either directly to the person if it’s safe or to your manager, HR, or executive team.
- Attend and participate in training.
The time is now to make this change long lasting so we all can live in a more civil society and have our children grow up knowing what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Equally, we are all responsible for creating and maintaining safe and respectful workplaces. Bullying and harassing behaviors can only exist in environments and cultures that allow it. We each have a voice – ending workplace harassment and bullying begins with action. If you experience it or see it, speak up immediately. Taking a stand against it when it surfaces is the first step to preventing and stopping it. Will you have the courage to step up?
About the author: Michelle Burke is a Communication, Workplace and Team Strategist, Coach, published Author and Speaker. She is Founder and President of The Energy Catalyst Group dedicated to creating more positive leaders, teams and engaged workplaces. Her years’ experience working with Fortune 100, 500 companies, established her as a leading expert and coach in bridging communication, gender and cultural gaps. Michelle consults with HR and leadership to focus on increasing individual, team and organizational energy. She collaborates with clients using her 3-A Model: Awareness, Accountability and (purposeful) Action and Energy Impact Model™. Clients include Stanford University, Visa, Disney, Receptos, Genentech, Sony PlayStation and Snapchat. Michelle authored, The Valuable Office Professional, and was featured in Business Week’s Frontier Magazine, LA Times, SF Chronicle, and Wall Street Journal. Her articles have been published in Training, HR, and Chief Learning Officer Magazines. She is a regular contributor to Huffington’s Post Great Work Cultures. She also co-created Personalogy®, Amazon’s Top 100 Best Selling Card Games of 2015. Please connect with her at Michelle@energycatalystgroup.com.