Greetings from Kevin Pokorny, May 2008
Here are Learning Tips to help you be more productive, thoughtful, respectful or just a better person.
Tip #1: “Not all harassing behavior in the workplace is illegal."
A common issue that surfaces when I conduct discriminatory harassment training for employers is that employees believe that any “harassing” behavior is illegal discrimination. Well that is simply not the case. Only harassing conduct that is based on an employee’s protected status, e.g., sex, race, age, etc. that rises to a level of a hostile work environment or impacts a tangible job benefit of the employee is illegal under civil rights laws.
Harassing conduct that does not rise to illegal status is still a violation of an organization’s anti-harassment policies or may be considered inappropriate behavior at work. An example of the latter is a co-worker telling another co-worker a sexual joke. That behavior does not rise to a level of illegal discrimination, but is certainly inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
In addition, there is incivility and bullying which are not illegal under employment laws, but just as harmful and are a form of harassing behavior. In a recent article “Bullying More Harmful Than Sexual Harassment on the Job, Say Researchers” (Science Daily, March 2008), the authors distinguished among different forms of workplace harassment and aggression that are not based on an employee’s protected status. They are:
• Incivility – rudeness, discourteous verbal and non-verbal behaviors;
• Bullying – persistently criticizing employees’ work, yelling, spreading gossip or lies, insulting employees’ habits or private life;
• Interpersonal conflict – hostility, verbal aggression and angry exchanges.
All these behaviors can create conflict, tension and harmful situations in the workplace. The difficulty in dealing with these behaviors is employees have to fend for themselves in dealing with these behaviors. There are no employment laws that will help them if they are unable to resolve these behaviors internally, unless employees’ become the target of these behaviors because of their legally protected status.
TIP #2: "As manager or supervisor, when disruptive or disrespectful behavior is identified, ask yourself three important questions."
1. Is it illegal? (Does it violate any laws?)
2. Is it impermissible? (Does it violate company policy?)
3. Is it inappropriate? (Does it affect productivity, teamwork or customer service?)
If you answered "yes" to any of the questions, take action immediately to stop the behavior. Coaching or disciplinary action may be necessary to stop the behavior. (From “We Need to M.E.E.T.: Managing for Respect in the Workplace” by VisionPoint® 2008. Reproduced with permission. www.visionpoint.com)