How to Deal with Abuse Allegations in the Workplace
- Date: Wednesday 14th December 2016
British football made the headlines last month for all the wrong reasons and it is staggering how many individuals still suffer in silence when it comes to abuse in the workplace.
As the story develops, this could be a good reminder for all employers to scrutinise their processes when it comes to dealing with bullying and harassment and ask themselves some uncomfortable questions around vigilance and detection.
It is sometimes difficult to draw the line between workplace banter and a breach of human rights but it is even harder to deal with the fallout of a workplace culture that supports, or even encourages, abusive behaviour. Abuse comes in many disguises.
Is it acceptable to give each other degrading nicknames?
We all agree that initiation ceremonies should be a thing of the past – but do we look the other way when they happen regardless?
Pranks can be funny as long as they are sensible. Or can they? I have seen these developing from hidden stationery items to cars covered in shrink-wrap and tacks placed in people’s boots. When do pranks stop being funny and develop a risk to health, safety and wellbeing?
If you have been on our ‘Overcoming Challenges’ course you will know that we do not recommend banning workplace banter. It’s important to see the funny side of life and work in a relaxed environment.
But as an employer, holding the reins on what is or isn’t acceptable is more important than ever:
- Educate yourself about abuse, harassment and bullying in the workplace. If you can spot the signs of abuse, you can prevent situations from escalating.
- Review your Equality Policy. It shouldn’t just be a document that sits on your shelf! Make sure you read the content and update procedures as necessary.
- Encourage structured communication. Employers shy away from having formal conversations and grievance meetings because they ‘spell out trouble’. On the contrary though, you will not be able to nip issues in the bud if you don’t know what is going on. So don’t look away! Ask questions and encourage people to speak out before things develop.
- Be proactive and talk about what’s acceptable. There is nothing wrong with conducting toolbox talks on workplace banter, language and human rights. Particular industries find this difficult because there is still a perception of softness around this subject. But what better example to use than the recent football abuse allegations!
Source: SSG - Manuela Grossmann