Harassment and Bullying No 2.

Back in March of 2020, as the nation worked through its first period of enforced lockdown, many of us found positives in the situation. A big plus for me was delivering training courses on Zoom or Teams just as effectively as in person, which considerably reduced the amount of time I spent travelling. The 4 am starts became a thing of the past!

I even managed to write my book ‘It Stops Now!’ on dealing with harassment and bullying for managers, published on Amazon in November click here.

We were all in this together. Stories about neighbours’ selfless behaviour, the fantastic work being done by NHS staff and people volunteering to help where they could were shared widely on social media.

I assumed this positivity would transfer to the workplace with everyone helping their staff and colleagues to get through these challenging times. More importantly, behaviours such as bullying and harassment would reduce dramatically.

What impact have we seen?

In some cases, increased engagement and productivity has been the outcome. Employees have thrived on the more flexible working styles available to them. Many employers believe a return to full-time office working will be unnecessary when the pandemic finally ends. Working from home (wfh as we call it these days) can and does work! That’s the good news.

Unfortunately, the shift to remote communication and working practices and the increased levels of pressure teams are working under hasn’t delivered positive results in all cases.

Many advisors who work in the employment arena have reported increases in negative behaviours, including:

• bullying in one-to-one virtual meetings when there are no bystanders present
• inappropriate comments and undermining actions in online meetings
• exclusion from meetings, email threads, Facebook or WhatsApp groups.

I, too, have spoken to managers who’ve noticed an increase in staff saying they feel undermined or frozen out by their work colleagues.

Bullying, harassment and other disrespectful behaviours should never have a place at work, and no external factor should allow them to become more commonplace. Without action, organisations run the risk of heading straight into situations that could include:

• Loss of reputation
• Reduced employee engagement
• Reduced productivity
• Increased costs, driven by absence and attrition
• Increased pressure at work for employees
• Increased financial risk due to potential legal claims, tribunal processes etc.

All organisations are looking to reverse their fortunes and enable growth to take place. However, without any action to address these unhelpful behaviours, they may find that the future is not as bright as they’d hoped.

What can managers do?

Firstly, acknowledge that this has been a year of immense pressure and change. No-one gets everything right the first time. The key to being a true leader is identifying problems and then taking the necessary action to change the situation. Fortunately, there are some quick actions that you can take today to change the trajectory of your culture and workplace behaviours.

1. Check-in with staff regularly
Speak to your people and find out what is happening in their lives. Don’t wait for formal meetings or events. Arrange regular informal chats to find out how they’re really feeling.

2. Be an active bystander (and encourage others to do the same!)
Whether you’re in a virtual or face to face meeting, address inappropriate behaviours when you see them. Make sure your team know what is acceptable and unacceptable. Encourage them to be accountable for their actions and speak up if they see disrespectful behaviour.

3. Be a conscious observer
If you’re reading this and haven’t observed any inappropriate actions from team members, that’s great! Just don’t become complacent and think it couldn’t happen in your workplace. Work closely with your people, make time to listen to what they’re saying and show genuine interest in what is happening in their lives.

The more approachable you are, the more likely they are to open up to you.

When you apply these three actions, you’re showing that you care about your teams’ wellbeing and support the inclusive and creative culture you’ll need to get through these challenging times.

In my recently published book, “It Stops Now! Everything a manager needs to know to deal with harassment and bullying in their team or workplace” I provide many techniques and strategies to help managers recognise and address these more subtle forms of disrespectful behaviour.

For more information, contact me at j osiehastings@gmail.com or c lick here to purchase a copy of my book today.

Remote onboarding: How to make new recruits feel part of the team

How to make new recruits feel part of the team

Starting a new job can be an overwhelming time for any employee, with so much new stuff to get your head around from meeting new colleagues to processes and procedures. Now imagine all of this with the added pressure of a global pandemic, and not being able to meet your co-workers face-to-face. This sounds like a lot to deal with, right?

As an employer, you have a duty of care to employees whether they’ve been staff members for years or it’s their very first day. It’s essential to make them feel comfortable and ensure they have the right guidance to feel like part of the team. The induction or onboarding process is crucial in making a new hire feel welcome and cared for. 

According to a survey carried out by the CIPD how new hires are treated in the first few days, weeks, and even months can influence their perception of you as an employer. A survey for the CIPD states that 85% of new hires decide on their future in a company within the first four months of employment. If you want to retain vital talent, it’s essential to get this right.

But it’s not just onboarding or induction processes that must be tweaked; it is an overall adaption of the HR strategy required to suit employees’ needs now and going forward into a post-pandemic era. Employers must go the extra mile to ensure that new staff members during the COVID-19 crisis get the same amount of attention if no more as those hired before remote working became the norm.

So how do you adapt to onboarding remotely, and how do we help new hires feel included? It’s one of the biggest challenges employers will face right now. Here are our tips.

 

Beef up the Welcome Packs

When new employees join, they need to feel welcome in the company, and one of the best ways of doing that is to surprise them with a gift and include a card signed by other team members.

A small welcome basket of appropriate items will go a long way towards making it feel like you’re celebrating their arrival; they’ll get the impression that you’re happy to have them join and that they’re a celebrated member of the team.

 

New Hire Lunches

Before the lockdown, a staple of most traditional induction processes was the new hire lunch, where the team goes out to lunch together. But since that’s not possible now, why not replace it using modern technology and book a virtual lunch?

Book a meeting with the team and buy your new employee and the team lunch of their choice and have it delivered. Everyone will get the chance to meet the employee, and you have scored a double whammy by making everyone feel included after all who doesn’t love a free lunch.

Have Regular Meetings

It’s not just feeling welcome that’s important, it’s also feeling useful and included! When starting a new job or changing your role, it can be tough to know what work should be done first or whether you’re meeting expectations.

In a pre-pandemic office environment, the new staff member could chat casually to their line manager. Still, this feeling of casual contact is not such an easy setup in a remote situation.

To make sure they’re getting the oversight they need at the start, consider booking more meetings between them and their point of contact than you would consider under normal circumstances. Hence, they get a chance to check-in, ask questions without worrying they’re bothering the team too much.

 

There is no Such Thing as Overcommunication.

Like with regular meetings, communication is critical. That can take many forms.

About the job specifics: give your new joiners an exact schedule of the onboarding process, and have their manager talk them through it, as well as cover what they’ll be doing in their first few days. Greater clarity will make them feel secure in their new role and will help better understand their position in the company.

Overcommunication also works with casual chats. Part of getting to know the business is talking informally with co-workers, which they might not get as much of a chance to do virtually. Encourage more discussions and send them messages just to chat, so they feel more comfortable talking to everyone. 

Organise Virtual Social Events

Most companies host social events in the office, you might have already moved over to virtual social events now and again but now is the time to ramp up team socials to build on and maintain that strong team cohesion.

Before the recruit even starts, invite them to any events you have planned. It can make them feel like part of the team and the company before getting to grips with any work.

Above all, making your new employee feel welcome, comfortable, and settled is vital for keeping their morale up in this tough time and making them confident that they made the right call joining your company.

For more information and advice or practical online courses, visit Josie Hastings Associates. With more than 25 years’ experience in delivering training on recruitment and managing employees we can help you develop a welcoming and productive culture within your workplace 

If you want to learn more about creating a respectful workplace culture, you can purchase my book. It Stops Now’ on Amazon. 

How to Become an Ally in your Workplace

For some years now and especially after the Black Lives Matter protests last year, the word ‘ally’ has been bandied around. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, an ally is someone who stands up for any person who is being oppressed.

What Does it Mean to Be an Ally in the Workplace?

At work, being an ally means making an effort to support colleagues or employees from under-represented or marginalised groups, whenever you can.

It doesn’t mean you understand what it’s like to experience the same kind of oppression as a colleague. 

Instead, an ally recognises their advantage or ‘privilege’ and acts as a powerful and supportive voice alongside their under-represented or marginalised colleagues.

But What Can I Do? 

These steps are a good starting point.

Acceptance

One of the essential actions in being an ally, whatever level you work at in your organisation is practising acceptance. 

To support a colleague effectively, work on being non-judgemental. Recognise and acknowledge your own biases – we all have them. 

Easier said than done, I know! No need to beat yourself up – accept that you are a ‘work in progress’.

Listen and Acknowledge

When someone shares their experience, a good starting point is to listen. 

Push aside any preconceived notions you might have and let them talk without asking questions. 

Say something helpful such as “I’m pleased/grateful you shared that with me” or “That must have been hard for you/ or hard for you to tell me”. Followed by “What can I do to support you?” or “How can I help you deal with this?”

Avoid jumping in with your own stories or responding with “Are you sure?” or ‘Maybe you’re being over-sensitive’.

Be Inclusive

The workplace can be a hostile environment, so be more inclusive.

Welcome New People

Entering a workplace that is not particularly diverse can be intimidating for a new employee.

Go out of your way to welcome your colleague or employee. Introduce yourself and get to know them. Remember how you felt on your first day at work! 

Understanding Unspoken Rules and Networks

Nearly every industry, workplace or team has unspoken rules (the way things are done around here) and networks (who are the real influencers). These are not always obvious.

Share that information and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Invite the new employee into influential informal groups with your full support.

Accept Criticism Graciously

Let’s be honest; we ALL get it wrong sometimes. It’s hard to hear you’ve offended or embarrassed someone or just said ‘the wrong thing’ at a certain moment.

It is human nature to want to defend ourselves by denying it or saying the person ‘took it the wrong way’ which won’t help.

It’s better to take a deep breath and say something such as, “I am sorry for offending/ upsetting/ embarrassing you. That was not my intention, and I apologise’.

If You’re a Manager or Director 

If you hold a position of power, use your influence to promote inclusion.

 Be a Sponsor 

Regularly talk about the expertise you see in others, especially during performance evaluation and promotion discussions. If you are in a position of influence, recommend people for assignments and learning opportunities.

Be a Flagbearer 

Promote a code of conduct for meetings that encourages contributions from all members.

Direct questions about specific topics to employees with expertise instead of answering them yourself. 

Make a stand within your company or industry for more black, Asian or people from minority ethnic groups, women, disabled people and other members of underrepresented groups to contribute as speakers, trainers, panellists and collaborators.

Be an Advocate 

When someone has a good idea, repeat it and give them credit. 

In any shared communication, make sure you credit the idea to your colleague or employee.

Be an Active Bystander

Speak up if you witness behaviour or comments that are degrading or offensive. 

Explain your position or ‘own’ the problem, so everyone is clear about why you’re raising the issue. For example, “I found that comment you made in the meeting, offensive/ belittling/ unprofessional”.

Support colleagues who try to intervene, for example, “I agree with Jatinder, that joke was inappropriate.” 

Don’t be afraid to raise an issue with HR or a more senior person, if you feel the situation requires further investigation or follow up.

Moving forward

Being an ally isn’t always easy. We’ve all witnessed situations that looked uncomfortable. Often we don’t say anything as we don’t feel it’s our business or we’re not sure what to say at that moment.

Take small steps. Start by getting to know your colleagues and build up.

Even if you speak up once out of five situations you’ve observed, it is better than never speaking up at all.

For more information and advice or practical online courses, visit Josie Hastings Associates. With more than 25 years’ experience in delivering training on equality, diversity and inclusion, we can help you develop a culture of allyship or deal with challenging behaviour at work.

If you want to learn more about creating a respectful workplace culture, you can purchase my book. It Stops Now’ on Amazon.

Harassment and Bullying at Work No 1

harassment and bullying at work uk

If you manage people, these are words you probably dread. You're not alone; most managers feel the same.

This blog post is the first of a series I'm going to produce on this subject. Here, I'll cover what the law says about harassment and bullying and who is responsible for incidents that happen in your workplace.

The Law – Definitions of harassment and bullying

You've probably noticed that both terms are used interchangeably in the workplace, but there is a legal difference between them.

Harassment

Harassment is a form of discrimination and defined as

‘Unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of either violating another person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person' (Equality Act 2010).

If your employee complains they're being harassed, it must be because of their ‘protected characteristic' to be unlawful. That means because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion and belief, sex, or sexual orientation.

Bullying

There are no laws explicitly prohibiting bullying in the UK. Instead, you're expected to implement the guidance provided by ACAS, which defines bullying as:

‘Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour which intentionally or unintentionally undermines, humiliates, denigrates or injures the recipient'.

For behaviour to be bullying rather than harassment, it would not be connected to your employee's protected characteristic.

Under health and safety legislation, you must provide a safe and healthy working environment. This requires you to assess, minimise and control the workplace risks to your employees' mental health. Bullying and harassment are viewed as risks to mental health.

Impact

 When you're trying to manage incidents, the way the law approaches these situations can be confusing. Why?

Firstly, harassment doesn't need to be deliberate to be unlawful or illegal.

Your employee may not have intended to harass their colleague. But it is the impact on the recipient that is considered significant.

Secondly, the terms unwanted and unwelcome appear in the harassment definitions of the UK (and several other countries).

You probably think this means the recipient would have to tell the perpetrator or you, their manager, that they objected to the behaviour. Otherwise, how would you know?

Wrong!

Legally, your employee doesn't have to say they object to the behaviour for it to be considered unwanted. Conduct can be unwelcome, even if your employee submits to it, or puts up with it.

It is recognised that your employee may fail to speak up for reasons such as:

  • not knowing how to complain;
  • fear of being seen as a trouble-maker or
  • thinking they'll lose their job if they complain about someone senior to them.

Saying that you didn't know or were not told the behaviour was unwanted or unwelcome by the complainant is not a defence. To find out how to address this, download my course on ‘Harassment and Bullying at Work.

 Who is Liable – Employee or Employer?

As the employer, you're generally held responsible for acts of harassment or bullying that occur in your workplace. Legally this is called vicarious liability.

Where and when are you liable?

You can also be held liable for harassment or bullying that occurs ‘in connection with a person's employment'. Which means you're responsible for incidents that take place between employees at training courses, conferences, workplace parties, business or field trips

Your liability also extends to staff using workplace computers, phones or tablets to harass another employee.

 Personal Liability

By now, you're probably thinking how unfair this is to you! You may have a ‘rogue employee', who's harassing a colleague without your knowledge. Yet your company ends up being taken to court and held responsible.

You'll be relieved to know that individuals who harass or bully others in the workplace are, of course, directly liable for their actions.

What can you do about it?

The good news is that you can minimise your liability as an employer by taking two specific actions, which are:

  • demonstrating that you've taken all reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring in your workplace, and
  • showing that you've responded appropriately to resolve incidents of harassment when they have occurred

Where you can show clear evidence of this, the perpetrator alone would be held liable for their behaviour. To show you've taken all reasonable steps, download my course on ‘Harassment and Bullying at Work.

Dealing with an Employee Who is Off Sick Regularly

Dealing with an Employee

Dealing with an employee who is off sick regularly can be a headache for you. And comes with a high cost to your business. Sickness absence also affects other staff, who have to take on the missing employee’s work.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development CIPD’s March 2020 survey on Health and Well-Being at Work, the number of sick days taken by employees is around 5.8 days per employee per year.

This figure isn’t unreasonable, but as we know, you’ll probably have a high number of employees who take one, two or even no days off. And a few who will take a lot more than 5.8 days!

 

When Managers’ Become Afraid to Manage 

Short-term, frequent absence can be challenging to manage. Especially if your employee is always just within the parameters of your policy and you feel your options are limited.

In these situations, you may be apprehensive about managing firmly. It’s not pleasant to suggest or even imply to your employee that their sickness ‘isn’t genuine’ And there’s often a fear of a backlash against you through claims of bullying, harassment, victimisation or discrimination.

As a manager, you’ll know that if an employee thinks they’ve been ‘found out’, it’s instinctive to retaliate and defend themselves or to move the heat away from themselves and on to someone else.

Often by having a conversation early on, before it gets to that stage, it will be enough to nip the absences in the bud, if they’re not genuine.

 

Reducing Unplanned Absences

There are practical steps that you can take to minimise sickness absences and to improve staff rehabilitation.

A practical and transparent policy on Managing Sickness Absence is a must.

Other interventions that help are access to occupational health, employee assistance programmes, minimising workplace stress, flexible working options, improving employee engagement levels through career development, job satisfaction and good manager-staff relationships.

Practical management training that explains how to deal with sickness absence is also vital. Once managers feel confident in what to say to an employee who is off sick regularly, they are far more likely to manage short-term absences quickly, before they get out of hand.

I have produced a short video-based course, called ‘Employee who is Frequently Off Sick’ which explains step-by-step what to say to your employee in these situations.

 

Top Tips for the Management of Short-Term Frequent Absences

  1. A return to work interview is a great way to find out the reason for your employee’s absence and what you can do to help.

Most importantly, if you’re starting to notice a pattern of absence, to let them know that you have concerns regarding their level of absence and if appropriate, the path that lays ahead for them if it continues. Email Josie at josiehastings@gmail.com for a free copy of a Return to Work Interview form you could use.

  1. Keep records of all conversations with your employees regarding their attendance. You can refer to this as evidence, later on, should you need to start a formal process.

 

  1. Familiarise yourself with your company’s policy and resources for dealing with absence cases. It may feel like you need a medical, legal, and HR degree to sort it all out! This is not the case; use those around you who are qualified. If you don’t have specialists in your organisation, join HR specialist Josie Hastings’ FB group where she’ll provide answers to your questions in the group.

 

  1. Ask probing questions to check if there are other factors at play that would be useful to know about, such as problems with child-care, personal issues, problems at work with bullying or stress.

Remember, employees may choose to keep information from you no matter how hard you try. You can only make decisions based on what you know at the time. Download my course ‘Employee who is Frequently Off Sick’ which will help you to deal with these situations.

How to Deal with an Employee who is a Poor Performer

How to Deal with an Employee who is a poor performer

As a manager, you know it's part of your job to deal with employees who are poor performers.
They could be under-performing for any number of reasons, whether they're not meeting deadlines or monthly targets, not responding to customers quickly enough or producing shoddy work.
Whatever it is, under-performing employees can affect the morale of your whole team and undermine your business' overall goals
So how do you manage an under-performing member of staff in the most effective and impactful way? Here are some tips.

Provide regular feedback and reviews

Give your staff regular short bursts of feedback and reviews throughout the year
Most employees need and appreciate immediate feedback on how they're doing in their jobs. Regular feedback – including areas of improvement – is more motivating for employees and an effective way of boosting their performance.
Balancing out positives with negatives when giving feedback will reassure your employee that they are doing some parts of their job well. It also means they're less likely to see any meetings with you as an opportunity to be criticised.

Have the facts before you approach your employee

Before you approach your employee about a particular performance issue, make sure you have the facts. What evidence do you have that shows they're not meeting the required standard? Are you clear about your expectations when you ask for improvements

Be specific and get to the point

Approaching your staff member with concerns about their performance in a vague or unclear manner won't work, and they may misunderstand what you're saying.
Get to the point and outline your concerns about their performance, based on the evidence you prepared beforehand. Download my course ‘Employee who is a poor performer’ which shows you how to do this.

Listen to Employee Concerns

Then ask for a response. Your employee may have a reason why they aren't doing something well or meeting the required standards.
Listen to what they say and find out what their concerns are. Do they find that aspect of the job challenging? Do other members of your team have a similar issue?
Is there a personal issue that's affecting their work productivity?
Listening will help identify how you can work on the issue together and move forward.

Ask Open Questions

During your discussion, make sure you ask open questions, such as
  • ‘how do you feel that task went?'
  • ‘what part of your role do you find most challenging?'
  • ‘what part of the job do you think you're best at?'
  • ‘what would make it easier for you to do xxx (a particular task)?
These types of question open up the conversation and give your employee a chance to reflect on their own performance.
They may even recognise the areas where they are underperforming and request support around this – which saves you from having to bring it up.

Ask what you can do

By asking what you can do to help your employee perform better in their role, you show that you’re acknowledging that it is not only up to the employee to work on their under-performance.
Is there additional training or coaching you could provide? Or do you need to explain a process or procedure in more detail to them? Your employee may also have suggestions as to how they could be supported in their work. They're likely to feel more motivated and willing to work on the issue if they make the suggestion.

Agree on an action plan and review date

Make sure you gain agreement as to what your employee will do to address the performance issue. This could be a detailed action plan including dates for additional training or setting aside a time to coach them on a procedure. Or it could be setting small goals for them to work toward. Agree on a date when you will sit down with them again to review their progress, so they know this discussion will be followed up.

Evaluate the outcome and give feedback

Where an employee shows improvement and takes action, it's important to acknowledge this. Alternatively, if there is little or no improvement, it's crucial to speak with your employee as soon as possible to decide what needs to be done next. Download my course ‘Employee who is a poor performer’ which shows you how to do this
So, go ahead and follow the steps above and remember to reach out if you need help.  You can always find me on my Facebook Page or feel free to email me at josiehastings@gmail.com.
Until next time
With thanks
Josie Hastings