Preventing Harassment in the workplace is a virtually impossible task for managers to achieve. I have no doubt they can foster an harassment reduced environment, or educate employees on the ills of harassment, but to actually prevent harassment when dealing with free will human beings is setting the bar too high.
For someone who has trained managers, been a manager, and preached the gospel of having harassment free workplaces, it suddenly occurred to me that we need to set more realistic expectations for managers when training this topic. To date we have left them with the impression that they can actually keep harassment from occurring which is a serious falsehood.
Managers can however, create open and supportive working environments where employees respect each other and better treatment between people is the norm. The can also set the tone for intolerance of workplace harassment, and an open door to learn when harassment occurs.
This week I learned of a work group that is into gossiping about each other. Not everyone is a participant, but the cruel and out right hurtful lies being spread cut to the core of everyone this group targets. As one employee put it with tears pouring down her face, “they are just mean people and I don’t want to work with them anymore.”
In that single statement is the real side effect of allowing workplace harassment to go unchecked. Good people leave, and often without telling anyone why. This leaves an opening to be replaced by a future victim if things don’t change.
Management, even the very on top and in touch kind cannot possible know everything that is going on around them. They need people to rat out the people who are acting inappropriate. If you are the direct victim you are expected to report harassment, yet too many other employees that know what is going on are quick to dismiss bad behavior when it doesn’t directly affect them.
Preventing workplace harassment means that it will never happen. However, if enough people get involved in removing harassing individuals, then a company, division or department can come pretty close to reducing it to the lowest levels possible.
Years ago I had a manager who shuddered at ever giving recognition to her employees. If I didn’t know better I’d say she became violently ill every time she had to show appreciation in general. A nice enough person, but her solution to a lack of recognition was to learn how to “Blow Your Own Horn!”
The first time that slipped out of her mouth, I laughed, because she was always cracking jokes. But this time she was dead serious! She told us all that learning the skill of blowing your own horn would be vital for promotions and our future success.
The concept is not new I realize, but I never heard another manager after that put such importance into developing the skill and that was 20 some odd years ago.
I’m curious, has this happened to anyone else?
Frankly I see this as a cop-out for failing to manage performance through positive reinforcement. Nothing more and nothing less.
What do you think?
When was the last time you attended a management meeting of any size/scale and the group leader stood up and after announcing a new strategic plan finished with “Let’s All Plan To Fail”??
Never you say? I would agree 100% with you that it is never something that is openly stated, but a lack of attention to a process that can cause an initiative to fail is the equivalent, just not as obvious.
I am currently watching a company that is in the process of acquiring another company of equal size, and has announced a second acquisition of another company of equal size within the next 6 months. They will be tripling their size, customer base and employee head count in less than a year.
When I found out that the acquiring company had been operating for the past few years without a formal training function, I decided to reach out to management to offer my assistance as they prepared to train all these new employees in products, services and culture.
To my genuine surprise, I discovered that there was no formal plan in place for training. Somehow everything that employees needed to learn how to do would come about naturally. In other words, the strategic plan was – Let’s All Plan To Fail!”
As this is a disaster in the making, I am doing my consultative best to convince management that this is not the best plan of inaction, and that a lot is riding on both of these acquisitions being as successful as possible. Not only do the current employees and customers deserve better, future acquisitions could fail to materialize if these two flop.
Bottom line, if you expect human beings to perform differently than they are today, you must have a learning performance plan in place. Rolling the dice is just not a reliable plan. Neither is failing to implement something as simple as a training plan.
Last year for a business trip instead of traveling by plane, I took the train round trip to my destination. Instead of spending 10 hours each way to travel, I spent 40 hours and learned a lot in the process of taking time to smell the roses as the saying goes.
For those of us that have had to travel by plane the past few years, you know it is not a treat anymore to be jammed into a fully packed plane let alone the service experience on the ground and in the air is not what it used to be. Factor in a decision to stop the Space Shuttle program at NASA, my wife and I decided that if we were ever going to take a trip on the train it better be soon before that mode of transportation is gone forever.
Going from Southern California to Chicago is a two night trip on the train so we decided to book a sleeper accommodation that even included our meals in the dinning car. We had a large picture window to watch the world go by as we traveled 78 miles per hour most of the time. We saw deserts, mountains, farms and crossed a few rivers. We packed a bunch of things to do on the trip (so we wouldn’t be bored) and found ourselves taking in the view most of the time, and talking with each other for hours.
We arrived at our destination rested, and thanks to the continual movement of the train, surprisingly relaxed as every knotted muscle had been shaken loose in the past 40 hours. The return trip went by quicker than expected and when we returned to work; it was like we had been on vacation instead of a business conference.
Although we took nearly four times as long to travel, the train left on time and arrived on time. The level of service was delivered by long-term employees, that genuinely loved their job and train travel themselves, so it translated into superior service to the passengers. We saw more of the country than a bunch of clouds, and met new people over meals sharing in our joint experiences on the train, and learning about the differences in where we were headed. Each stop caused us to both gain new passengers while others left the train giving our world a diversity of people not found in other forms of transportation.
As I got back to work after I got home, I was struck with how much we focus on today and the future in trends and technologies. We strive for the latest gadget, or solution that will bring us in line with what everyone else is doing. From my experience that week I learned that although the future is fascinating, I kind of enjoyed a chance to experience a slower pace. Slowing down is not bad if we learn new things, meet new people, and get to know each other better in the end.
One of my favorite Christmas movies is the Christmas Carole, and I wonder what would happen if those three ghosts were to visit a few selected company CEOs and help them see things differently. Imagine for a second if your company started doing things completely the opposite of the way they have in the past? Would that be a good thing or a bad thing?
I think the simple moral of the Christmas Carole story is that it is never too late to change. No matter what bad behaviors we have exhibited in the past, no matter how we have managed processes or people we could do things better from here on out. For some of us we could be motivated to make these changes just by reading an encouraging blog. For others, 3 spirits with their own agendas might be necessary to see the light. And sadly, some will never change under any haunting circumstance.
So for those of you that have someone you wish could change (or maybe it is your company that needs to change) how could you influence them to perform differently from now on? If they were to start tomorrow morning with a new attitude, what should be different?
I personally like the Christmas Carole theme for a strategic planning meeting. The “Ghost of Company Past” begins by discussing the company past tense and what was so meaningful and worked so well. What did you forget and stop doing? What would still work today that worked in the past?
Then the “Ghost of Company Present” takes a hard look at the company today, and what is happening that you don’t know about. What startles you about the status quo? What is lining up as a perfect storm that could threaten your very existence?
Lastly, take a look forward with the “Ghost of Company Future”. Not the company you want to exist, but the one you are lined up to become, because of your existing practices. Is it even close to the reality you want?
Whether the three ghosts visit you or someone else, the experience is only valuable if you wake up refreshed and willing to change. My wish for you is for not only for the open mind to see your reality but for the strength of character that may be needed for you to change your ways in a 180 degree about face.