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What's Lurking in Our Workplaces

Posted Tue 23rd Jun 2015

Here's a famous optical illusion. When you look at it, you’ll see either a young woman or an older woman.

Your friend who’s sitting right next to you may see a young woman gazing off to the side, while you see an elderly woman with her eyes cast downward.

Who's right?

Both of you -- the drawing contains both images. Even though this blog is written in relation to US conditions, the situation and issues are not dissimilar to Australian conditions and laws that govern our workplace.


Below is the full article from ELI®. Would love to get some feedback on your thoughts abotu this.

Here’s a famous optical illusion. When you look at it, you’ll see either a young woman or an older woman. Your friend who’s sitting right next to you may see a young woman gazing off to the side, while you see an elderly woman with her eyes cast downward. Who’s right? Both of you — the drawing contains both images.

This difference of perception is an analogy for what’s happening in our workplaces. The EEOC’s statistics show that charges of job discrimination and Commission lawsuits are on the decline. To many lawyers and others, this represents a welcome reduction in risk and a sign of progress. Compared to practices and conduct of past decades, it is.

Yet, I’m betting if you were to walk into many organizations that had only a minimal number of claims and lawsuits, employees would tell you there’s a serious issue lurking just under the surface. It’s a source of internal charges, complaints, negative engagement survey feedback, and daily frustration. But, the behaviors involved do not hit the compliance radar. For that reason, they are not taken seriously by many.

Essentially, individuals from different groups are raising issues of exclusion, e.g., being ignored in daily conversations, being spoken to dismissively, not getting the same social and professional welcome as their colleagues, and being limited to formal, if not wooden, levels of communication and interaction. To them, unfairness and isolation are obvious and painful, restricting their opportunities for mentoring and advancement.

Whose view of the workplace landscape is right? Both are. Legal risk over “traditional” EEOC claims is clearly declining, in large part, due to improved employment practices. These have been built on years of experience and a commitment to fairness and compliance following a 50-year history of statutory civil rights enforcement and awareness. In fact, many of the worst slurs, behaviors, and actions are relatively rare as more employers have enacted strict policies, implemented workplace training and reporting mechanisms, and continue to scrutinize individual actions for evidence of disparate treatment and statistical impact.

Yet, there’s a big gap between illegal and exclusionary conduct. Here’s the reason why: in most parts of the U.S., if you remove tangible actions and overt forms of mistreatment, such as blatant disparate treatment or outrageous verbal or written actions, it’s nearly impossible to raise viable claims of discrimination.

However, the impact of what’s being termed “subtle behaviors” is real. Surely we can all remember instances when we were excluded based on such interactions. And, in our workplaces today, at least from what many surveys and opinion polls indicate, perceptions of racial gender, sexual orientation, and ethnic and age alienation still remain based on such conduct. As Hamlet said, “…there’s the rub.”

The way we communicate and how we interpret our interactions is largely based on tone of voice, body language, eye contact, and casual social interactions – all of these give us the perception we’re either part of- or excluded from- groups. And, these groups include our workplace assignments. Though negative interactions don’t lend themselves very well to “legal” proof, they still have the power to demotivate and demoralize and definitely affect performance, quality, retention, and other important business metrics.

Think about your co-workers. Even though you share the same organization, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll share the same perceptions of certain workplace comments and behaviors. Think about your friend who saw a young woman in the illustration, whereas you saw an elderly one. The different views that individuals have of their workplace are that real.

Unless employers mean that inclusion is limited just to behaviors that can spark compliance liability, it’s vital to see both sides of the picture in our workplaces. This is the only way to fully address our organizations’ commitments to fairness, civility, inclusion — in essence, the intended purpose of laws dealing with fair treatment at work.

What's Lurking in Our Workplaces

Are We All Really Just Unconscious?

Posted Tue 23rd Jun 2015

We all make quick decisions, sometimes unaware that we’ve even made them. But unless we’re part of the walking dead, the majority of our actions include conscious thoughts on issues like what type of careers we’ll pursue, who will be our friends, or where we’ll live. The same is true in our daily work lives where the combination of our non-thinking and purposeful choices affects the quality of what we do and the impact that our decisions have on others. To build inclusive workplaces, both must be given proper attention. Ultimately, though, it’s how we act, rather than why we act, that matters most and where leaders should be focusing their attention. Even though this blog is written in relation to US conditions, the situation and issues are not dissimilar to Australian conditions and laws that govern our workplace.

Read more about the article here.

Podcast - Maureen Kyne & David Frizzell Discuss Bullying

Posted Tue 19th Apr 2016

I was recently invited to speak about bullying in the workpalce with the talenetd David Frizzell from Team Guru.

I was asked to speak about bullying from a variety of angles to provide the listeners with little more insight into this insidious disease that is wreaking have on our workplaces and the individual.

As we know Workplace bullying can be enormously destructive to a workplace and devastating for individuals.

But what exactly is bullying? How do we recognise it? What do we do about it? How can we prevent it?

In this episode of the Team Guru Podcast – we take you through the working definition of bullying and talk about some of the industry’s in which bullying is most prevalent. We talk about the tips on how to recognise it. And we provide an understanding on the impact it can have on us as people and on an organisation’s bottom line.

There are also gives some handy tips on what we, as leaders, can do to deal with it effectively and put measures in place that will prevent it from happening again.

Podcast Link: http://teams.guru/podcast/835/

Summary from David Frizzell on the Lessons Learned from our discussion

Here’s what I took from the episode:

Maureen’s definition of workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour that’s directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. It includes behaviour that intimidates, humiliates, degrades, undermines and threatens.

Bullying can result in psychological and physical harm.

Under the Australian Work Health and Safety legislation, bullying is an occupational health and safety hazard.

It can also entail a single incident – as opposed to the definition that describes bullying as ‘on going’.

Sometimes a person who has been subjected to ongoing bullying behaviour can snap and lash out or threaten and then in turn become the person who is exhibiting bullying behaviour.

According to Maureen, people who are the victim of domestic violence can become the bully when they enter the workplace.

In Australia around 74% of people have been bullied in the workplace. Of those, 65% say they have been threatened or verbally abused by a co-worker or manager.

62% of those bullied are bullied by men. Their targets are generally (58%) women.

Female bullies also predominantly target women (80%).

Maureen believes that bullying, and its definition, is well understood in the workplace but that people are reluctant to act on it. They are reluctant to report it because of fear of retaliation from the perpetrator or losing their job. People who are particularly vulnerable include new employees, people reaching the end of their working life, people who are financially vulnerable and young people and apprentices.

Often Maureen hears people say (in reference to reporting bullying), ‘It’s just too hard’. They are often concerned that they won’t be believed.

  • Bullying in the workplace can lead to high absenteeism and presenteeism, turnover in staff and lower productivity.
  • Bullying can lead to higher workplace accidents – because people are not focussed on their work. They are distracted.
  • Bullies often react to accusation by saying, ‘Well that’s just me. That’s how I do things’.
  • Bullies love exercising their power and they are insecure. They like to disempower people so they have control.
  • Organisations that reward individuals, rather than team outcomes, invite bullying type behaviours that comes from competition.
  • When assessing if something is or is not bullying, we must assess the impact that behaviour is having – not the intent of the behaviour.

Because of that, individuals within the workplace must be aware of their own behaviour style, so they can better understand the impact they are having on those around them. Maureen referenced DISC as a way of thinking about the different types of people within a workplace.

Tools like DISC, MBTI, HBDI, Leadership Circle – or any number of similar tools – help us to gain a greater understanding of ourselves so we can better understand the impact we are having on those around us. This is important, because people are not judging our behaviour by what we intend, they are judging us by their interpretation of our behaviour.

Developing respect within the workplace is the key to eliminating bullying behaviour.

Impact of bullying

Individual – anxiety, illness, lost productivity, lower confidence and lack of performance and effort.

Research tells us that at normal levels employees work for about 52% of the time at work. If people are feeling bullied that percentage goes down further.

Dealing with Bullying

  1. Prevention. Don’t let the rot of bullying set within your organisation.
  2. Detecting and identifying bullying behaviour
  3. Correcting it.

Bullying is usually best handled internally, but if that is not possible (perhaps it’s the boss who’s the problem) there are external agencies that can help such as: Fair Work; The EEO Commission.

Practical steps to addressing my boss the bully:

  1. Find the right moment to outline the behaviour of concern.
  2. Think about what you can to do release your boss’s stress – perhaps the bullying behaviour is a manifestation of stress that can be addressed together.

Addressing bullying in a larger, structured organisation:

  1. Review the policies that are in place around workplace behaviour?
  2. Assess the way in which that knowledge shared across the organisation?
  3. If there is no culture statement or mission/vision for the organisation they need to be collaboratively designed to ensure authenticity and buy-in.
  4. Ensure that managers at all levels have an open-door policy – encouraging regular and candid conversations about all types of concerns.

As a leader:

  1. Clarify the culture statement and behaviour expectations.
  2. Have an authentic open-door policy and communicate it. Often.
  3. Make it clear that you want to hear the concerns of your team – whether they are about you or anyone else in the organisation.
  4. Speak regularly with each of your team members – even if they don’t request it. Just to get a feel for how they are going, what they’re doing, are they achieving their goals.
  5. Teach your direct reports to have the same kind of open-door policy and regular, open conversations with their subordinates.

Podcast Link: http://teams.guru/podcast/835/

Podcast - Maureen Kyne & David Frizzell Discuss Bullying