Building and Maintaining a Safe Work Environment
by Mike McCoy
Sunday, November 11th, 2018
Every day it seems we hear yet another story of inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Right now the brightest spotlights are shining on entertainers and politicians, but that doesn’t mean corporations, or small businesses, are immune. Small businesses may not have the media ‘oomph’ of a celebrity or elected official, but the damage to morale and reputation could be devastating.
As leaders, we have to hold ourselves up as models for everyone around us. Our actions demonstrate our values far more than our words:
- Do we create opportunities to have open conversations?
- Do we take responsibility for our actions and those of our team members?
- Do we show our employees respect and treat them with dignity?
By encouraging contribution and growth of all people in our organizations, promoting a culture that is welcoming and supportive of all viewpoints and ideas, we nurture an environment that allows everyone to flourish. When people are confident of their value, that confidence allows them to be their best selves and bring out the best in others.
There are three steps to building an environment of success:
- Educate. Boundary violations may be unintentional. Discuss harassment – sexual and otherwise – regularly throughout the year. It will never be a pleasant subject but keeping it an active part of the conversation gives it more weight than bringing it up once a year because human resources and compliance say we have to. Don’t leave it to others; our leadership positions give us the opportunity to model the attitudes and behaviors we expect from those around us.
- Clearly outline expectations and standards of professional contact. What is harassment? Somewhat surprisingly, it’s not always defined and it is often misunderstood. What’s the process to report abuse? What are the consequences of violation? Make sure the policy is clear. Setting our team up for success starts with building an environment of mutual respect and trust among all employees, regardless of their role in the corporate hierarchy.
- Provide safe mechanisms for discussing violations. If an employee reports an issue, make sure they feel heard, and safe. Offer mental health counseling by a third party. Recognize that sometimes abuse will be reported by a witness rather than the victim, who may be intimated, frightened, ashamed, or unsure. We need to be clear we want to know when something is not right, and we’re going to talk about it and take care of it.
This is a large and important topic that must be considered by all businesses, not just those in the entertainment sector. As leaders, no matter what our businesses may be, it’s up to us to set the standard for a safe working environment for all of our employees.