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Archive for the ‘Workplace Harassment’ Category


Did you ever work in a place where your workmates felt like family? It’s a great feeling, isn’t it? That’s when you really love going to work because you know that whatever happens, there will be harmony. Everyone will be in sync and tasks will be accomplished.

Did you ever work in a place where you felt like prey? You never knew what to expect once you arrived. Everyone was looking out for himself and shifting blame elsewhere whenever possible. The very thought of having to go to work felt like a kick in the gut. You knew that at any time there could be conflict and you would have to be on the defensive. You always had to be on the lookout because no one had your back but someone would surely have a piece of it in their mouth.

It’s amazing how one person can throw off the entire balance of a team. Whether it’s a manager or a co-worker, a single self centred individual can ruin the dynamic of your work environment. These people suck the life out of organizations every day. How do they get in there, anyway?

They get in because it’s hard to know what someone is made of when you interview them. People put their best face forward and they are not necessarily hired for fit, but rather experience or skill. Mind you, experience and skill are both very important, but hiring people who fit into your corporate culture (and hopefully you are trying to create a positive one), is extremely important.

Before you decide to hire someone, make sure they are interviewed by both managers and peers. If the candidate’s personality has a certain edge to it, or if their mentality is simply not compatible with everyone else’s, someone will likely pick up on it. Some people are very astute that way. If you are lucky, you will have at least one person on your hiring team who is a highly intuitive judge of character.

As your new hire settles in, listen to what co-workers have to say about that person. Typically, if everyone has a problem with someone, then that person is the problem. If you do hire someone who turns out to be someone who is hard to get along with, then offer training if appropriate. If that doesn’t work, then get rid of them. Don’t waste your resources on a bad hire and don’t ruin everyone else’s productivity level and your corporate culture because the toxic person you hired happens to produce certain favourable results. Attitude is everything. Your business will thrive the most when all of your employees are acting in the best interest of the team’s objectives for the company. One person putting his or her personal needs first (financial, promotional, etc) destroys the dynamic of the team and the greater results of the company. Even if they are producing, the team as a whole would do much better without the toxic member’s input.

Showing your employees that you have zero tolerance for abusive or difficult people will strengthen their commitment to your company and increase their overall level of engagement. Also, when your company gains a reputation for being a great place to work, you’ll find your hiring pool to be loaded with excellent candidates. After all, who wouldn’t love to work for a company that prides itself on maintaining respect and dignity in the workplace?

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So you’re a manager or team leader and you’ve dumped on your people and treated them as underlings and ninnies for quite some time. Now you find you’ve got employees who give you lip, call in sick, refuse to do you favours and resist your direction. You know they talk about you behind your back. They’ve complained about you to your supervisor/manager and everything is falling apart on you. Clearly, no one has any respect for you and some don’t even care about the consequences of acting out their anger and frustration. You’ve received your wake-up call but don’t know how to fix the mess you’ve created.

As a bully manager, you are a liability to your company. Your behaviour can result in law suits being filed by employees and former employees. You cause turnover and you also cause people to take stress leave. Your behaviour seriously hampers productivity and causes customers to desert you.

Furthermore, I’ve never met a bully manager who wasn’t all stressed out by their conflicts at work. It takes a lot of energy to be a creep. If you have a history of being a mean-spirited, condescending jerk, then you need to understand that you are bound to have your comeuppance. As Groucho Marx once cleverly said, “Time wounds all heels.”

The process of building trust as a manager is one that takes patience and commitment, so if you’re looking for a quick fix, you can forget it. Naturally, it will be especially difficult if you’ve got a reputation for being a jerk (that’s the polite term). Take heart, though. I said it will be difficult, but it is definitely possible to create a positive environment even when your leadership has been less than exemplary. Here are some tips to get you started:

No Double Standards: If you want your employees to respect you, you need to follow the exact same rules you expect them to follow; and do it 100 per cent of the time.

Respect: You have to give respect in order to get it, so make sure all of your interactions with your team members are non-threatening. Never speak to others in a condescending tone. Ask politely and don’t give orders.

Show Genuine Interest: People naturally like people who take an interest in them. Ask your employees if they had a pleasant weekend; ask about their family, pets and hobbies. Ask about anything that isn’t too personal and take an interest in what they tell you.

Share Information: Share a little personal information and share information related to the business. Openness is an important part of building trust. When you share, others will reciprocate.

Be Helpful: Don’t set up road blocks for your employees. Give them every opportunity to be successful. Encourage them to be the best they can be by offering your assistance and friendly advice. Offer courses, books or whatever else you need to offer to build their confidence and skills.

Be Flexible: Even though rules are important, it is also important to be flexible enough to bend them once in a while for people. If you treat people the way you would want to be treated under the same circumstances, then you will know when flexibility is necessary.

Have Fun: Don’t take things so seriously all the time. It’s ok to let loose and relax with people. Tell a clean joke or a funny story. As long as your remarks are not negative or potentially hurtful to someone, it should be safe to have a laugh.

Don’t Be a Hot Head: If someone annoys you, don’t blast them right away. Cool down and find the appropriate moment to address the behaviour in a civilized fashion. You may find that after you’ve cooled down, that it really wasn’t that big a deal.

Pick Your Battles: Understand that you don’t always have to be right, and even if you are right, it’s ok if you are the only one who knows it. Some arguments just aren’t worth pursuing. If the matter is not really earth shattering, then don’t waste your energy on it.

Don’t Be Vindictive: Never try to get even with people. No one can respect or trust anyone who cannot take the high road. We win when we choose grace over drama.

Don’t Be a Control Freak: Give people credit for having intelligent ideas and capabilities. If things always have to be done your way, then you are doing a great disservice to the business. No one is perfect and acting like you are better than everyone else will only serve to alienate you from the people you need the most: your team.

Don’t Engage in Constructive Dismissal Practices: Constructive dismissal is a sleazy practice that doesn’t escape the notice of the victim’s co-workers. It seriously hampers productivity and fosters an environment of extreme mistrust and lack of respect. If you need to fire someone, then do it as nicely as possible. Civil behaviour is always best.

These tips just scratch the surface. I’m looking forward to the day when companies adopt and actually enforce a zero tolerance policy around bullying and workplace harassment. To date, I have seen a lot of companies who simply pay lip service. It makes me question how people interpret the word, “harassment” and I wonder why some types of harassment are condoned while others are not. Harassment is bad for business, no matter who is doing it or how they are doing it.

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