Finding the Courage to Confront Improper Behavior
Confronting improper behaviour is difficult for anyone at any age and at any stage in their career or personal life. Finally, there seems to be a break in this taboo and at the moment much of what we are seeing in the media are reports of victims in Westminster who are at last speaking out. It all seems so much worse that these allegations come from our parliament and involve those who we hope will act in an exemplary way. Maybe we are deluding ourselves, scandals and poor conduct of various sorts have been happening forever, but in the public world of parliament we would expect everyone to be able to confront the unacceptable without fear for career or reputation. Yet as more reports and allegations come to light, it is apparent that this is happening everywhere and at all levels, in all types of organisation, and those who speak up are too often dismissed as being over sensitive, or having no sense of humour or fun.
For politics, the expenses scandal seems only just to have subsided, then last year another code of conduct was prepared because of the alleged wrongdoing of those including Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Jack Straw and Maria Miller. Now the Conservatives have to sign up to the new code that Theresa May swiftly instigated last week to define the behavioural expectations of those in her party. Is it now time for businesses everywhere to be taking a closer look at both their organisational codes of behaviour and how their people are behaving?
Right now in organisations across the country boardrooms are thinking about what they are doing to embed inclusive leadership and promote fairness and respect as the cornerstone of their values. The reputational danger is massive for a business that brushes off inappropriate banter as just a bit of fun or condones sexual undertones as acceptable flirting. Those on the receiving end are uncomfortable, for them it is tantamount to bullying, and they feel excluded when they feel that they are not up to challenging the behaviour and don’t know where to go for support. The organisation that is yet to ensure their actions to mitigate the impact of conscious or unconscious bias in its recruitment or promotion processes are vulnerable to public criticism, but the consequences of not getting this right go far beyond bad publicity or costly tribunals, the business case for creating and sustaining an inclusive business with respect at its core is indisputable.
Getting the strategy right is critical and a short workshop for the board facilitated by a Diversity and Inclusion specialist is the first step. Overhauling policies and procedures, making sure there is a route for employees to take to seek help to resolve an issue is part of the foundation work. Then developing managers to lead the inclusivity agenda and providing training for employees completes the initial stage. Many organisations have done much of this work and wonder where to go next. Drama workshops are a way to wake up to what is going on around us. Unconscious Bias in Recruitment, Selection and Promotion, as well as in the way we interact with one another in our day-to-day will have a profound impact on how people behave. Managers’ toolkits bespoke to organisations will ensure that a culture of Inclusion and Respect is woven into routine working practices and communications. Speaking out training gives employees the skills and confidence to deal with issues at the earliest stage so that much of these unwanted behaviours become a thing of the past.
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