Guest Blog Kirsten Cluer, Owner, HR Consultant and owner of Cluer HR
Kirsten Cluer is the HR Consultant and owner of Cluer HR. She has more than 15 years of experience in the field and has Fellow membership of the CIPD.
Almost a third of Britain’s workforce have admitted to experiencing some form of workplace bullying during their careers, with more than one in three of those leaving their job because of the issue.
It is important, therefore, that employers take the appropriate action to create an open culture within the workplace, where staff can feel comfortable and safe.
Under the Equality Act 2010, businesses and organisations in the UK are legally required not to discriminate against employees or potential employees based on race, gender, age or disability.
It is important to note that employers are responsible for preventing bullying and any form of harassment in the workplace and are, therefore, liable for any bullying suffered by an employee(s).
By creating a clear Code of Conduct for employees to adhere to from the outset, an environment of respect and open communication is developed and nurtured. It will also help to create a sense of camaraderie between employees, meaning that should an employee exhibit unacceptable behaviour, more people are likely to speak out against it.
These policies and the organisation’s Code of Conduct should be introduced to employees at the induction stage and reiterated throughout the term of employment.
As with any workplace culture, it is important the principles start from within. Establishing a strong corporate vision which encompasses internal values and staff engagement, as well as external ones, will help to create a culture to which everyone is attuned.
Communication should be a key component of an effective culture. Employees should feel able to freely open up and discuss any issues they may have within the workplace, no matter how serious in nature.
There should be zero tolerance of bad behaviour within an organisation and this should create a whistle-blowing policy, where all employees feel able to report such behaviour whether they have experienced it or witnessed it.
Not only should employees feel free and comfortable to talk about such instances, it should also be clear to them who they should be talking to. By opening clear communication channels for complaints, employees will feel they can share anything they believe is unprofessional.
It is also important to develop procedures to deal with unacceptable behaviour. Managers and leaders should be well equipped to not only be able to identify such behaviour, but also handle any possible complaints.
Line managers are usually the first port of call for many employees, so they should feel capable of dealing with complaints and confident in the next steps. If they need to seek advice, they should know who this is with. Many companies have in-house HR departments, but if they do not, they must make sure employees know where to pursue such advice.
As previously discussed, it’s important that managers, like staff, know the correct procedures in dealing with bad behaviour and a resulting complaint. It can be tempting to rush through procedures and skip steps in an attempt to get a quick, and desired, result but it is important to do things correctly.
Not only will this reassure the employee that their manager is taking their complaint seriously, but as already mentioned, it is the employer who is responsible for preventing bullying in the workplace and, so it is the employer who should be seen to uphold those values and procedures.
As with the procedures for reporting incidents, discipline procedures should also be well documented and upheld. Brushing off incidents could be seen to condone them, which will do little to prevent bad behaviour.
Ensure incidents are dealt with appropriately – don’t create a culture of fear, but employees should know that there are consequences for bad behaviour.
While a lot of the reports currently in the media have come as a shock, creating a culture which focuses on eliminating inappropriate behaviour from the outset will ensure staff are aware what constitutes acceptable behaviour and will be unified in working together to eliminate it.