Maybe yes and maybe no.
Lately, there have been a number of blog posts either focusing on proposed legislation that would prevent workplace bullying or the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would expand Title VII to include sexual orientation as a protected class.
While this type of legislation is intended to eradicate inequality and promote inclusiveness in the workplace, we shouldn’t wait for its passage to act. Wouldn’t it be more effective for organizations to take a proactive stance before such legislation is passed to begin the dialogue among employees about the benefits of a respectful workplace?
Legislation of this type is effective because it forces organizations to take a hard look at their workplace culture and to make (sometimes) long overdue adjustments and improvements. This benefits everyone in the long run because the [emotionally] safer an employee feels, the more likely he or she is to be engaged and productive, which positively influences the bottom line.
Attitudinal and behavioral changes must be evident in senior leaders before the rest of an organization modifies its course. Regardless of laws, newsletters, bulletin board postings and company mission statements, what employees and mid-level managers witness in the corner offices sets the tone for everyone else. There are still far too many leaders who hide behind the tired rationalization of “style” to explain behavior that is intimidating, demeaning and abusive to others, and it damages both an organization’s performance and its human assets.
With flatter companies and the need for people to collaborate, we need a stronger stance on respect of each member of an organization. In the past, while it wasn’t right, we could bury this “style” and people could just do their jobs. It was only when the most obvious transgressions happened that the need to address them became an issue. Today, we will succeed as organizations if we recognize the need to work as one front in both actions and action and attitude. I agree.
I have experienced bullying – and been a victim of it – at work. Interestingly, the bully-in-questions was the CEO of a highly visible non-profit tourist attraction in Cleveland. An educated person, this CEO should have known better. He guided his staff by bullying and embarassment. The person being bullied was mortified. The end result was that he lost the respect of everyone who worked with him. They did not take his outrage seriously. But the negative impact on the entire staff made working their tiresome, non-productive and created fear that prevented the flow of creativity.