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.

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