Calling out bad behaviour in the workplace

bad behaviour

There are so many recent examples of bad behaviour in big business that it would be easy to fall into the story that all that stuff happens at the “big end of town”.

Think again.

Remember that there’s one big thing that small businesses have in common with big businesses. They are all made up of human beings and at times can behave in less than acceptable ways.

You know that instance where you’ve heard something that is just not right and you have a strong internal or external emotional response? All of a sudden you freeze up and hear a voice telling you to “look the other way and don’t out yourself in the firing line”.

The easy path is to bite your tongue rather than step into something that doesn’t involve you. Bullying and harassment is everyone’s business.  

Why do we choose to look the other way in the workplace even when we know that ethically or morally it is the wrong thing to do?

Perhaps it’s easier to accept “that’s the way it is around here” and justify behaviours that are unacceptable to go about the business of self-preservation?

Inappropriate behaviour should never go unchecked, even if it means causing disruption within a small team.

Bullying and harassment is such a hot topic right now and there are more examples of humans courageously speaking up and choosing not to look the other way because it’s easier to do so.

Safe Work Australia released a report in 2017 with some alarming statistics on bullying with the caveat that this happens across all businesses regardless of size:

  • One in three women who claim for a mental disorder stated it involved harassment or bullying.
  • One in five men who claim for a mental disorder stated it involved harassment or bullying.
  • Workers who report being sworn or yelled at in the workplace: 37 per cent.
  • Workers who experienced unfair treatment due to gender: 11 per cent.
  • Almost 20 per cent of workers say they have experienced discomfort due to sexual humour.

Here is why stepping up and choosing not to look away can benefit the workplace:

  1. Redefine and set the new standard for leadership – what’s that saying about ‘what we are prepared to accept determines the baseline for our leadership behaviours?’ Leadership isn’t about titles, but more about actions and activities. By speaking up, you are setting a new standard and redefining what leadership is in your workplace. Don’t wait for the owner to ‘lead’ on this – call it when you see it.
  2. Role models give others strength to follow – Your co-workers are looking for role models, and once the role models appear, the followers get onboard. This becomes a movement, and when done with good intention, quickly changes the ‘way we do things around here’. There are many examples of the courageous act of speaking up that has then resulted in others coming forward with their own stories.
  3. Shine the light on the behaviour – those who bully and harass are experts at keeping their behaviour at times done in such a subtle way out of the limelight and almost in the shadows. These shadows must have a spotlight shined right on them as you see it happen and call them for what they are. They see the shadow as their safety net and it must be taken away from them.

If that’s a convenient story that you use to help with looking away perhaps it’s time to stare at it and find your voice. 

What’s your choice?