A safe place to be

The Northland Age - - Local News - By Tony Collins, CEO North­land Cham­ber of Com­merce

THE in­ter­na­tional Me Too Move­ment, and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing rev­e­la­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in some high-pro­file New Zealand com­pa­nies, high­lights the fact that while it seems most of us agree this should not hap­pen, it does hap­pen, and ev­ery­one within the busi­ness com­mu­nity has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to make our work en­vi­ron­ments as safe and in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble.

While this is un­der­pinned by work­place health and safety, and the busi­ness owner’s reg­u­la­tory or statu­tory obli­ga­tions, it needs to be more than just a few bul­let points in a busi­ness plan or a pol­icy sit­ting on a book shelf in the of­fice.

Be­yond the com­mon cour­tesy of treat­ing each other with re­spect, it is im­por­tant for so many other rea­sons. This kind of be­hav­iour af­fects staff morale, im­pacts on work­ers’ health, leads to in­creased staff turnover, can im­pact on pro­duc­tiv­ity, and in some cases may bring about sub­stan­tial fi­nan­cial costs to the busi­ness that does not ad­dress it in an ap­pro­pri­ate man­ner.

Then there are the ex­ter­nal im­pacts, par­tic­u­larly the dam­age it can do to the rep­u­ta­tion of a busi­ness. This can lead to cus­tomers, sup­pli­ers or stake­hold­ers go­ing else­where, or dis­as­so­ci­at­ing them­selves for fear of dam­ag­ing their own rep­u­ta­tions.

With the mat­ter now at the fore­front of both tra­di­tional and so­cial me­dia out­lets, this is an ideal op­por­tu­nity for North­land busi­nesses to ex­am­ine just what their work­place cul­ture is re­ally like. Are they truly do­ing all they can to pro­vide a safe work­place? If they are fall­ing short, what are they go­ing to do about it?

It may be easy for the owner to think ev­ery­thing is go­ing al­right, but I know from my ex­pe­ri­ence of deal­ing with busi­nesses in­volved in the West­pac North­land Busi­ness Ex­cel­lence Awards that when they con­sult with their work­ers they are often sur­prised to find there is a dis­con­nect be­tween what the owner thinks is hap­pen­ing and what their work­ers are ac­tu­ally do­ing or ex­pe­ri­enc­ing across a whole range of work­place is­sues.

It may well be that the busi­ness owner, par­tic­u­larly one with a small work­force, may not have the in­ter­nal ca­pac­ity to en­sure they are in fact do­ing things the right way. The start­ing point, other than bring­ing in ex­ter­nal ex­per­tise, may be to en­sure that they have cre­ated a gen­uine cul­ture where ev­ery­one is re­spected and ev­ery­one feels safe about rais­ing their con­cerns.

"With [sex­ual ha­rass­ment] now at the fore­front of both tra­di­tional and so­cial me­dia out­lets, this is an ideal op­por­tu­nity for North­land busi­nesses to ex­am­ine just what their work­place cul­ture is re­ally like. "

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