Calling out inappropriate behaviour within the workplace
Ignoring inappropriate behaviour at the workplace is detrimental to employee progress. In the long run, such ignorance creates a distrustful workforce and an unethical work atmosphere. Ultimately this can lead to the downfall of the brand and the company.
Organisations must therefore own the responsibility to offer appropriate training to their employees to call out bad behaviour. They must train their employees to have zero tolerance to inappropriate behaviour and create an atmosphere where employees stand up against such behaviour without fear of repercussions.
What can one do in the face of inappropriate behaviour?
Here are some actionable steps to consider:
Be Aware of what Constitutes Inappropriate Behaviour
There are many behaviours that can be called inappropriate. But it is important to understand the impact of the behaviour on the victim, the team, and on the workplace culture in general, to assess its severity. Only then, an appropriate action can be taken.
Consistent rude behaviour by a boss is uncomfortable, but it may not warrant a severe reaction, especially if such behaviour is primarily ego-driven.
Small ego-boosting gestures such as thanking the erring individual for his or her contribution to a project, and offering genuine compliments every now and then, highlighting the person’s character, have been known to work wonders in such cases. (Source: HBR)
But there are behaviours that are not so easy to solve, nor should be tolerated.
The most common of such behaviours include:
- Harassment: Actions intended to severely humiliate, threaten, or intimidate, constitute Harassment. Offenders are known to show aggression through verbal or written means. They may try to bully others into submission through use of physical and sexual violence, or through threats of using the same.
- Showing Bias: This includes any action taken on the basis of an individual’s gender, race, culture, and religion, among others. Depriving an employee his or her rightful place at a workplace because he or she is different (due to the above-mentioned factors or other) is inappropriate.
- Malicious Gossip: Any gossip that results in the spread of false information, damages reputation and creates hostility in the workplace, is inappropriate.
Disruptive Behaviour: Actions that can amount to Disruptive Behaviour include:
- Extreme laziness leading to missed deadlines consistently
- Being uncommunicative and thereby impacting project quality, frequently;
- Yelling and throwing tantrums, or displaying a need to exercise control through such actions, frequently
- Showing blatant disregard for official responsibilities
Call Out the Inappropriate Behaviour Immediately Where Possible
It is important to put offenders in place the instant they indulge in inappropriate behaviour. For example, a sexist remark by a superior or colleague during a meeting can be addressed immediately – tell the offender that the sexist remark was in bad taste and that you would expect him or her to treat you with more respect in future interactions.
If such immediate correction is not possible because you are uncomfortable calling out the offender in public, then meet the offender in private and speak your mind.
Seek Help and Support
Talk things out with a trusted colleague, mentor or friend from your own, or a different, department. Talk to them about your take on the behavior and seek their opinion on the issue.
The offender may have indulged in inappropriate behavious before and the victims may not have reported them. If that is the case, talking to others can get a conformation of your perspective. You could even enlist support for the cause.
Talk to people who can help and know what they can do for you. They could speak to the offender on your behalf and issue a warning against such behaviour, which can put a stop to the entire issue without a need for escalation.
Consult the Human Resources Department
In cases where your reprimands have fallen on deaf ears and the inappropriate behaviour continues, take appropriate action in consultation with your HR department.
Ideally, your HR department must have clear policies in place for tackling inappropriate behavior at the workplace. The team must have the necessary training and tools to handle such behaviour.
With such a policy in place, you will be guided on the actions to take, to report inappropriate behaviours. The policy will clearly state actions that fall under the category of inappropriate behaviour. The policy will also state clearly the authorised person to contact, and the actions to document, in such cases.
With such a policy in place, inappropriate behaviors can be curbed early before they escalate and create irreparable consequences.
As a proactive approach, organisations must own the responsibility to educate their teams regarding inappropriate behaviors and set the expectations right at the very beginning. Companies must invest in psychology coaching as part of employee skill and leadership training.
Employees must be trained to try to solve such issues by themselves first. They need to be trained in the correct way of reporting an inappropriate behavior to the upper management in cases where the initial approach fails.
Explain How the Situation is Affecting Your Productivity and the Business
Low morale and psychological impact are possible effects of inappropriate behaviours. But talking personal damage alone may not make not create substantial impact on the upper management when such issues are escalated.
Stress on the effect that such behavior creates on your morale and productivity to get a reaction. Talk about the cost the team, the project, and thus the business, have to suffer, if such behaviors are not addressed immediately.
Adopt a practical mindset and realise that chances of the offender being punished with an exit notice are low.
The upper management may not fire the offender even if your case is proved. The offender may be freed with only a mild reprimand.
But do recognise that you stood up to the offender without meekly tolerating his or her inappropriate behaviour. This action, in itself, should make the offender wary of you and discourage such behaviours in the future.
However, if the abusive situation continues, and you feel the suffering is not worth it, then quit, if your job profile and company policy permit.
If you are worried about your pride taking a fall, or of leaving the offender free to continue his or her inappropriate behaviour, by quitting, then shun such mindset. Your physical and mental wellbeing are more important than winning over the offender. So, take the practical approach and quit.
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