#BULLYFREE: WHY BE­ING UN­CIVIL IS WRONG

There is a big dif­fer­ence be­tween work­ing in a ro­bust work­place where peo­ple can be up­front with each other, com­fort­ably en­gag­ing in con­struc­tive con­flict and a work­place with a pat­tern of in­ci­vil­ity. Jane McCar­roll ex­plains.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS - Jane McCar­roll is the head of mar­ket­ing and mem­ber­ship at IMNZ. The In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment New Zealand, help­ing lead­ers step up and lead since 1946.

There is a big dif­fer­ence be­tween work­ing in a ro­bust work­place where peo­ple can be up­front with each other, com­fort­ably en­gag­ing in con­struc­tive con­flict and a work­place with a pat­tern of in­ci­vil­ity. Jane McCar­roll ex­plains.

Bul­ly­ing used to be passed off as old-fash­ioned au­thor­ity. We did what we were told, kept our mouths shut and our heads below the para­pet in case they got bit­ten off.

How many of us can re­mem­ber our­selves in sit­u­a­tions at work where we were seething with frus­tra­tion on the in­side but com­pli­ant on the out­side? We kept our mouths shut be­cause we knew that if we spoke out we would prob­a­bly be la­belled as trou­ble­mak­ers.

I would like to say things have im­proved nowa­days, but have they?

In 2016 New Zealand ranked sec­ond high­est in a global work­place bul­ly­ing re­port. When I googled bul­ly­ing stats 2018 I saw web­site af­ter web­site about kids and bul­ly­ing and I thought what about adults deal­ing with abra­sive be­hav­iour?

In­ci­vil­ity can in­clude a very wide range of be­hav­iours: • Dis­mis­sive body lan­guage. • Pas­sive-ag­gres­sive com­ments. • Rou­tinely turn­ing up late for meet­ings. • Talk­ing over oth­ers. • Mak­ing jokes at some­one’s ex­pense. • Gos­sip­ing or car­ry­ing on a pri­vate

con­ver­sa­tion. • Dis­re­spect­ful be­hav­iours. • Tex­ting dur­ing a meet­ing. • With­hold­ing in­for­ma­tion. • Ex­clud­ing peo­ple. • In­ap­pro­pri­ate teas­ing. • Be­ing rude to cus­tomers or sup­pli­ers. • A daily pat­tern of rough lan­guage,

crit­i­cism and per­sonal at­tacks. • In­sub­or­di­na­tion in its many forms – talk­ing peo­ple down and brow­beat­ing.

All this makes good ma­te­rial for any soap opera and is a gold stan­dard for a grip­ping re­al­ity TV show but is highly cor­ro­sive in the work­place.

Iden­ti­fy­ing and in­ter­ven­ing with work­place in­ci­vil­ity, abra­sive and bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour can be chal­leng­ing. Work­place poli­cies and re­port­ing pro­cesses are only part of the an­swer. Lead­ers may feel un­able to act un­til a for­mal com­plaint is made but at that point sig­nif­i­cant work­place dis­rup­tion has al­ready oc­curred. Not to men­tion the hid­den cost of im­pact­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity, morale and mo­ti­va­tion.

I knew some­one in re­cent years who ap­plied for a pro­gramme man­age­ment role – the role was to be the li­ai­son be­tween gen­eral man­agers and IT.

As part of the re­cruit­ment process he was re­quired to un­der­take psy­cho­me­t­ric test­ing – and while this is con­sid­ered pretty stan­dard as part of an ap­pli­ca­tion process, what was not stan­dard was what he was be­ing tested for – his abil­ity to work with peo­ple who were abra­sive.

Rather than stamp out the bad be­hav­iour, this or­gan­i­sa­tion not only knew about it, they were re­cruit­ing to con­done it. He got the job and sur­prise, sur­prise, the cul­ture was toxic. How in any mea­sure could this be good for busi­ness?

There is a big dif­fer­ence be­tween work­ing in a ro­bust work­place where peo­ple can be up­front with each other, com­fort­ably en­gag­ing in con­struc­tive con­flict and a work­place with a pat­tern of in­ci­vil­ity. Man­agers who turn a blind eye and hope that em­ploy­ees will sort it out for them­selves are miss­ing the point.

As the say­ing goes – what you ac­cept, you ap­prove of.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions which per­mit work­place in­ci­vil­ity to go unchecked are of­ten un­aware of the true costs of do­ing so. Work­place in­ci­vil­ity has been shown to lower job sat­is­fac­tion, in­crease

psy­cho­log­i­cal stress and re­sult in lower dis­cre­tionary ef­fort.

Worse still, a pat­tern of in­ci­vil­ity can lead to on­go­ing work­place dys­func­tion where peo­ple con­tinue to feel un­able or un­will­ing to per­form at their best. The cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect can re­sult in an area be­ing la­belled a toxic work­place, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult to re­cruit and re­tain high per­form­ers.

Un­con­scious bul­ly­ing – when em­ploy­ees don’t in­ten­tion­ally tar­get any­one but make co-work­ers feel vic­timised any­way – is one of the most com­mon causes of work­place angst.

This be­hav­iour is gen­er­ally un­der­pinned by a fun­da­men­tal lack of self-aware­ness and our role as lead­ers is to help raise aware­ness as to why it mat­ters to have em­pa­thy and to build healthy re­la­tion­ships based on trust and re­spect.

What are we, as lead­ers, do­ing when we see un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour and what are we do­ing to stamp it out of our or­gan­i­sa­tions?

We need un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to equal­ity and in­clu­sion in our work­places, our mar­kets and in the com­mu­ni­ties where we work and live. We need to speak up: Com­pa­nies should openly en­cour­age peo­ple to speak up when they no­tice a prob­lem. Make it ev­ery­one’s re­spon­si­bil­ity in the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

It is up to all of us to nip ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour in the bud and speak up when we see it hap­pen­ing to oth­ers in the work­place. We need to build aware­ness of what con­sti­tutes and causes abra­sive be­hav­iour, and pro­vide best man­age­ment prac­tice in early in­ter­ven­tion. We need to ed­u­cate: De­velop good man­agers. Give man­agers lead­er­ship train­ing to help them ef­fec­tively man­age and su­per­vise work­ers and build a ‘nob­ul­ly­ing tol­er­ated’ work cul­ture.Pro­vide em­ploy­ees with in­for­ma­tion about what con­sti­tutes bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour. The Govern­ment’s Work­Safe New Zealand web­site has a com­pre­hen­sive sec­tion on de­vel­op­ing work­place bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment poli­cies and re­port­ing pro­to­cols which are worth­while read­ing. How­ever, poli­cies only work when en­acted so it is im­por­tant that this is lived and breathed across the or­gan­i­sa­tion (as well as it be­ing pol­icy). Early In­ter­ven­tion: Mak­ing sure your peo­ple know how to re­port un­rea­son­able be­hav­iour, and to have the con­fi­dence to call out and deal with any un­rea­son­able be­hav­iour be­fore it es­ca­lates. This is so im­por­tant. When bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour is com­ing from the top it can be re­ally dif­fi­cult to do this with­out feel­ing like your head is on the block – but if we work on ac­cen­tu­at­ing the pos­i­tive – we can hope­fully be­gin to elim­i­nate the neg­a­tive.

Ev­ery­one has the right to be em­braced as his or her true, au­then­tic self. We want that for our kids, and we should want it for our adults too.

At IMNZ we help or­gan­i­sa­tions ad­dress work­place in­ci­vil­ity to build more pro­duc­tive work­forces. Check out our web­site for more in­for­ma­tion.

What can we all do to sup­port our work­places to be bully free? Work shouldn't hurt. And that's no bull.

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