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Bystanders can’t do the right thing in employee relations

28th Mar 2017
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Bystanders
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Your journey to work is disturbed by loud mouths, antisocial media and disrespectful behaviour. The warning signs have zero effect and your looks of disapproval are ignored. If you challenge one person, everyone will expect you to challenge the next person who steps out of line. You don’t want that pressure or the potential consequences of confrontation. It’s not your job, you’re just a bystander.

When you get to the office it is your job to manage or report people problems. The bystander effect of not tackling difficult situations when other people are present can lead to no one taking action until it’s too late and the damage has been done.

You have to do something. If you stand up for what’s right, other people will follow. Or will they? If Brexit, Trump and the multigenerational workforce debate have taught us anything, it’s that offices are becoming more politicised and everyone has an opinion on what’s right.

Mixing good and bad news

With companies becoming more transparent and candidates looking at complaints online before accepting a job offer, honesty in conveying your organisation’s culture and engagement scores is a more credible approach than attempting to present a utopia. It will help companies and candidates decide if they are a good match.

The Great Place to Work survey evaluates the perceptions of your employees, asking them about their workplace experience to analyse the effectiveness of the practices that underpin your workplace culture. People work for money, purpose and job satisfaction, but they will not perform at their best unless misconduct, unsatisfactory attendance and poor performance are dealt with promptly and fairly.

HR advisors and managers not only have to manage these people problems, but show they are managing the problems as everyone is watching. However, their successes are often buried to protect the brand. The dismissals, settlements and victories in workplace disputes become footnotes in the organisation’s history to illustrate the before and after effects of a new CEO and people-focused management culture.

People will not perform at their best unless misconduct, unsatisfactory attendance and poor performance are dealt with promptly and fairly.

This can change if companies learn how to weave case outcomes and customer and employee reviews into corporate communications to show what is being done to make the organisation a great place to work.

Setting the right tone

HR advisors support managers in setting the tone for employee relations. When managers come calling, they need more than ‘copy and paste HR guidance’ as they are relying on HR’s expertise to make the right decisions to protect the organisation from legal action and reputational risk.

The challenge is to ensure the fear of conflict does not create a harsh disciplinarian regime, or that a softer approach does not lead to “shoulda coulda woulda” employee relations where no action is taken and problems rumble on. Both approaches sap confidence in management and prevent the business and HR working together to deliver organisational justice in an increasingly diverse and transparent workplace.

Do the right thing                                                    

Dignity, respect and understanding are important but until robots take over the workplace, organisations cannot expect human beings with different personalities and values to always beat the same tune in the office drum circle of engagement.

When managers come calling, they need more than ‘copy and paste HR guidance’ as they are relying on HR’s expertise.

While freedom of expression is a must, there is a line you don’t cross and that rule applies to everyone. As TV mobster Tony Soprano once said, “If you can quote the rules, then you can obey them.” Unlike the mafia, organisations must follow their code of conduct.

If you don’t want a revolving glass door of critical reviews and resentment, join the band of reasonable responses to get your groove back in managing employee relations and doing the right thing.

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