With the annual summer break about to happen, and Christmas well and truly now hurtling towards us, it’s that office maintenance time of year – time for watering the office plants adequately (Peace Lilies, perchance?), doing that cathartic ritual clear-out of the communal kitchen fridge, and setting up those out of office responses (and sticking to the familiar messages that they send!). Hopefully too, your Christmas party or end-of-year festivities have gone swimmingly, and have been an enjoyable activity for all.
Reflecting on the year that was for Worklogic as we sought to resolve disputes and build a positive culture at workplaces across Australia, the three following themes very clearly come to the fore:
Behaviour risk and conflict comes in all shapes and sizes: Triage well, and have flexible policies!
Sadly, there are so many different ways in which employees can potentially treat each other inappropriately and harm each other, inflict collateral damage, and cause the workplace environment, and culture generally to deteriorate.
At Worklogic, we have seen a growing need for those who are tasked with examining, intervening and repairing such spaces of conflict to first of all conduct effective triage. This is particularly necessary in order to identify what is the right tool, or tools, for a successful intervention and risk management of the issues at hand.
But whilst no two issues are the same, following an inflexible policy, or not considering a multi-tailored approach, can often lead to the situation further deteriorating. This year, we have been seeing much greater interest from our clients on the fundamental importance of triaging well: of getting a firm understanding of the context of the conflict (if you possibly can), of considering how serious it is, of judging how big it is, and, like any strategic assessment, identify what you are trying to achieve, both for the organisation, but also for the individuals themselves, on a number of levels.
If your policies are not giving you sufficiently flexible options (to say, mediate after an investigation, or, conduct an “organisation-led” investigation) then change your policies so that they work for you, not against you.
“What is really going on?” – Understanding the context of conflict
“What’s really going on?” is a question that our clients are asking more and more, when rumblings in the office become impossible to ignore or after an investigation has been completed. It reflects a growing interest in the context of conflict, and what intelligence can possibly be examined and gleaned from a fact-finding workplace review.
Sometimes the information provided during an investigation can reveal broader themes about the healthiness, or otherwise, of a workplace’s culture. Given that an investigation’s aim, at its heart, however, is to identify whether particular alleged behaviours occurred or not, one cannot always rely on an investigation to cast a strong light on such broader questions of “what is really going on in this workplace as a whole?”.
This year, in particular, we have seen a much greater demand for workplace reviews than ever before. They have enabled our clients to get an extremely helpful sense of “what is really going on”, and such reviews are, by their nature, a much broader and comprehensive exploration of workplace behaviours, processes, morale, leadership style and communication compared to an investigation. The reviews in turn enable workplaces to proactively reduce the risk of bad behaviour, and consider review recommendations which have a great deal of leverage because they come from an independent review.
Individual accountability at all levels – and supporting the rise of an ‘upstander’ culture
Our clients this year have been focusing on training to support individual accountability. We delivered organisation and sector-specific training which encourages everyone to reflect, discuss and learn how they can be more accountability for not only their own behaviour, and types of conversations they participate in, but how they can truly live the organisations’ aspirational values. This style of training has been very effective in terms of participant engagement and in developing a strong, personal connection to critical organisational policies, codes of conduct and values.
Connected to this, we have examined the research into the ‘bystander effect’ and what academics have shown are effective ways to ensure that organisations create an ‘upstander’ culture which is active, not passive, and supports an environment where all are accountable and have an influential voice, and conducted training to foster this.
Resolutions For 2017
You may already be on the above ‘triage’, ‘workplace reviews’ and ”personal accountability and upstander culture’ journeys. If not, can I suggest that these are worthy additions to you workplace resolutions for 2017! In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine, the baubles and “the serenity”.
About Grevis Beard
Grevis Beard is the co-founder and director of Worklogic. From his career as a barrister and solicitor and his specialisation in discrimination law, Grevis has significant knowledge of the dynamics of workplace disputes and their resolution. Grevis works with a range of clients to improve workplace communication, manage workplace risks, handle complaints and improve employee behaviour.
Worklogic works with employers to resolve workplace complaints and create a positive culture at work. We can help you develop organisational values and ethical codes of conduct that provide a powerful framework for appropriate behaviour at work. We also deliver interactive on-site training programs to help your staff become supportive bystanders, challenge mindsets and to reinforce your values.
If you would like help with strategies to create an inclusive, healthy culture at your workplace, please contact Grevis via email or give him a call on (03) 9981 6500.