By the time employees return to the same worksite, this may be not just a ‘well worn’ cliché but a disregarded one. Catch phrases are memorable and repeatable but do they evoke the intended action?
When people are fearful, feeling even slightly threatened, uncertain or in any way unsafe, what is considered ‘good’ for the community is considered ‘not good enough’ for the individual.
We need to work together respectfully. All employees will say this expectation is a given. But will all employees know what this means in practice? I doubt it. Without adequate training, most employees, prior to Covid-19, did not properly understand what constituted appropriate, respectful, workplace behaviours. Now, returning to work with a heightened sense of uncertainty, even employees who participated in ‘Respectful workplace behaviour’ training pre Covid-19 may not fully understand that their reactive behaviours may be forms of harassment, discrimination and/or bullying.
It is foreseeable employees will have very strong personal views on such topics as the Government COVIDSafe app, mandatory vaccinations, ‘safe distancing’ and personal hygiene. We have always been expected, while at work, to behave in a ‘politically correct’ manner and keep our personal views and opinions separate to our professional ones (which you know has not always been successful and has fueled many interpersonal conflict situations). These ‘new topics’ are likely to trigger buttons in ways that some employees will not have experienced before and I am predicting a rise in both the occurrence of interpersonal conflict situations and the submission of complaints.
Employers must be decisive and clear in their messaging. Asking staff to ‘work together respectfully, with empathy’ etc etc will not ‘cut the mustard’. To allow managers to reduce their responsibility regarding new emerging HR issues in their teams by justifying they had issued this directive to all staff should not be tolerated as a reasonable excuse.
All managers should be updated about their responsibility to promptly address all concerns raised with them (even if they appear to be trivial) and their vicarious liabilities in regards to team member behaviour.
In addition all staff should attend update training that both acknowledges the new uncertainties and personal fears about returning to work and stresses the real possibilities (with current, relevant examples) that expressing their personal opinions either explicitly or implicitly, through a range of verbal, non verbal, conscious and unconscious actions could amount to harassment (under workplace policy), discrimination and/or bullying.
Workplaces have had to take a proactive stance on responding to Government directives since Covid-19 and to minimizing the risks to physical health and safety for employees both away from and as they return to the normal work location. These steps may have included the update of several workplace policies. This too presents as a good time to review and update the workplace policies referring to behaviour if this has not already been attended to.
Now is the time to also take a proactive stance on minimizing the risks to the physiological health and safety of your employees by ensuring update ‘Respectful workplace behaviours (Prevention of Bullying and Harassment)’ training is provided to all staff (particularly managers). Contact Workplace Harmony Solutions here to arrange the delivery of this tailored training module.