As a human resource professional, creating a respectful workplace for employees is a top priority. A respectful workplace begins with trust. Strong teams are built on a foundation of trust, and a team without a basis of trust cannot function as a team—it can only function as a group of people. There is a major difference between groups and teams: groups cannot reach success and complete long-term goals, but teams can.
So how do we create a trusting, respectful workplace for teams to thrive? First, we must create an environment free of disrespect. Employees find difficulty trusting individuals who disrespect others. Disrespect can come in many forms, including discrimination and harassment.
Discrimination can be defined as an action or decision that treats a person or group negatively for reasons such as their race, age or disability. Harassment occurs when an individual is subjected to unwelcome or unacceptable verbal or physical conduct. All violations are unacceptable and should be reported. In fact, it’s our responsibility to report any and all violations to federal law, state law or company policy. However, many employees facing workplace discrimination or harassment don’t want to file a formal complaint. Perhaps they don’t want to cause trouble, they don’t trust their company to act or they fear reprisals from the harasser or coworker.
BrandonGaille.com published alarming results from a recent U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) harassment study including:
- 64% of Americans see sexual harassment as a problem in this country
- 81% of women experience harassment in verbal form
- 27% experience harassment from a colleague
- 66% of sexual harassment victims were unaware of their workplace policies regarding harassment
- 4% were not aware of which department or person should be contacted regarding sexual harassment
To foster respect in the workplace and reduce discrimination and harassment, it is important to educate employees on important human resource themes and violations. Education sessions can be helpful to keep the importance of these violations top of mind, and we should schedule the education sessions regularly to ensure all employees are aware of what is appropriate and inappropriate in the workplace.
These trainings should include the definitions of discrimination and sexual harassment, clear examples of prohibited conduct, complaint procedures, an anti-retaliation statement and disciplinary actions. It is beneficial to conduct these training for new hires at their orientation. Existing employees should receive additional annual trainings, and separate trainings should be conducted for managers and supervisors. Always remember to obtain signatures and dates at the end of trainings to document that all employees have attended.
Throughout the year, encourage respectful communication in the workplace. Inspire team Members to communicate effectively and courteously, without casting judgment, blaming or shaming. Respectful communication techniques including active listening, addressing conflict constructively and accepting the opinions of others can boost morale and positively impact the culture in the workplace.
Emily Possidento is a Senior Manager on MCM’s HR Consulting Services Team. She has more than 19 years of experience in human resources within the health insurance, executive head hunter, IT advisory, accounting & financial staffing, and business consulting industries. She has expertise in employee selection, talent development, organizational training, employee assessments, managerial coaching, performance management and engagement.
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