Stress and routine change can be breeding grounds for the worst aspects of staff inter-personal relationships.
In the current climate it is hardly surprising to see raised concerns about employee mental health and more specific issues such as inclusivity, leadership and excess behaviour such as bullying.
As we go into another year with no sign of an immediate return to normality, it worth looking at the reflections of two industry key advisers, Jacqui Barrett and Brian Rogers, on matters critical to fair and effective staff management.
Jacqui Barrett: Every organisation strives for better performance and a great reputation. Prosperity is also important, not just monetarily but through every individual’s sense of belonging. So, how do we get there?
These days we’re all aware that diversity and inclusion matters. But you have to find out who your employees really are and what they really think, so you can dig deeper into knowing what needs to be done to improve the culture of your organisation.
It is really important that everyone acknowledges they have space to learn, and that everyone is involved, from the most junior to the most senior. The learning should not feel like a tick box or one- and-done exercise. Wider Thinking’s successful approach has been to engage through awareness, challenge the status quo through strategy and measure the outcomes, with a report that looks not only at the self, but the team, leadership, workplace norms and the company’s internal and external reputation.
If you can measure it, you can see how and where something may need to change. A better understanding of yourself and your employees will give you the tools to start meaningful conversations and actions.
Through our findings, one of the most important factors is allyship. Being an ally or advocate establishes trust; it brings different groups together creating equity within the workplace. It enables equal access to resources and opportunity. When employees feel included, the company and its people won’t just survive but thrive.
Continuous work on improving inclusion and allyship demonstrates just how serious you are about tackling bullying and mental health. You’re also sending a clear message about your reputation. Through creating a set of corporate values, you will be able to attract, retain and develop your employees. Happier staff means fewer sick days, higher productivity, greater innovation and a strong sense of loyalty.
Don’t be left behind!
Brian Rogers: Bullying and harassment at work is not only totally unacceptable but also completely counter-productive, but for some inexplicable reason some of those working in law firms still think that this type of behaviour is acceptable and serves a purpose!
The recent Law Care survey that looked at life in the law found that 22% of participants had been subject to bullying, harassment or discrimination in the workplace, with burnout also being a problem with those aged between 26-35 being hit the hardest due to low autonomy, psychological safety and highest work intensity.
Those who are the target of bullying and harassment are very likely to suffer from mental illness as a consequence, for example, anxiety, mood swings, depression, and strains on their personal lives, all of which will have an impact on their performance at work, including, an inability to focus properly, a reduction in work output, and an inability to communicate well with colleagues.
Those who suffer from mental health issues as a consequence of bullying and harassment are unlikely to want to stay where they are so will move on, but not only will this lead to a loss of the affected employee but also others who see what they have been subjected to and don’t want to be put in the same position in future; word will also get around the market that the firm is not one to work in, which will then lead to difficulties in recruiting staff, it is also likely to reach the ears of clients/prospective clients, which will impact on the firm’s future sustainability.
Firms that currently have a ‘toxic’ culture need to change and change fast!
So, what should firms do?
• Operate a no bullying and harassment culture
• Open up communication lines between senior staff and others
• Ensure workloads are manageable and don’t require long hours
• Operate effective working practices (not presenteeism)