December 2009 Diversity and Inclusion Best Practice
Address harassment and bullying by giving managers basic interactive skills training
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) programmes that are effective in transforming workplace cultures to ones more inclusive for everyone can result in more complaints about experiences of harassment and bullying. This is to be welcomed as this means the problem can be addressed. Victims of this behaviour have to try all the harder to perform to their full capability. Indeed, they often do not succeed in doing so, which results in a performance loss to the organisation.
Harassment and bullying is unwanted conduct, which affects the dignity of women or men at work. This can include unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal behaviour. The essential characteristic of harassment is that the action is unwanted by the recipient. Harassment and bullying will include unwanted conduct that effects, or violates, the dignity of a person:
- creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment;
- or where the person's rejection of, or submission to, such conduct is used explicitly or implicitly as a basis for an employment decision;
- or which involves the intimidation or belittling of someone through the misuse of power or position, which leaves the recipient feeling hurt, upset, vulnerable or helpless.
IDC’s experience of working with clients over the years to reduce incidences of harassment and bullying is that it is often caused by a lack of managerial skill. This is in two respects:
1. Managers have not been adequately trained in effectively interacting with team members when delivering basic managerial functions, e.g. giving instructions, offering feedback, dealing with tardy work or behaviour.
2. They are unskilled at challenging inappropriate and harassing behaviour amongst others in the workplace.
A large factory dealt with both of these causes by running a series of short, 2-hour workshops to develop the capability of its frontline and middle managers to lead effective interactions with others in a range of common workplace situations. Internal trainers were trained from volunteers from amongst their colleagues to deliver the programme of short workshops. The factory’s senior management attended a workshop to enable them to reinforce the training given to their more junior managers. The training dramatically reduced the number of grievances and absenteeism was also significantly reduced.
A more recent client, as well as following the approach described, is training some internal mediators to help mediate differences and conflicts that arise amongst workforce members. We are confident that this will have a positive impact; but have still to evaluate its effect.
Dr Ian Dodds,
26 Nov 09
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