Dear Evil Skippy:
I manage a manufacturing department that includes over 100 employees and four supervisors. I am developing guidelines to help us keep some bad apples from morphing into full-fledged harassment claims in court. Do you have any tips for how supervisors can keep misbehaving employees from becoming harassers?
— The Boss
Hopes, prayers and Tasers.
— Evil Skippy
As I’ve mentioned many times over the years and will continue to say despite ES’s contradictions: TASERS ARE NOT NOW AND WILL NEVER BE AN ACCEPTABLE SUPERVISORY TOOL.
Your focus appears to be on keeping your company out of court. I’d suggest that you change that focus to providing the best services or product while maintaining a great work environment – but then I am such a sentimental sap who wants people to lead happy lives. Go ahead and focus on not getting hit with a lawsuit if you want. I’m going to give you the same advice either way.
Instead of using your brain energy on lawsuit prevention, spend it on enforcing your existing code of conduct. You should already have a general policy on workplace conduct as well as a policy against harassment. Using my ESP skills, I predict that whatever the actual words might be, the gist of your policies is that employees must conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner at all times towards co-workers, customers and anyone else who enters the workplace. (If you don’t have such policies, consult with an experienced human resources professional or attorney yesterday – you’ve got bigger problems than my blog can handle.)
It sounds simple – and it kind of is – but the main thing you need to do is enforce your existing policy on civil behavior. If you and your management team coach your workers (and lead by example) to always be professionally civil, your odds of “morphing” into a lawsuit are greatly reduced. Don’t devote your energy to preventing employees from behaving so badly that it becomes illegal. Devote it to coaching (or reprimanding) employees who stray from the civil zone before they get too close to the land of unlawful harassment.
It’s like gardening. Take care of the small problems (newly sprouting weeds, a stray insect pest) before they become huge issues. Enforce your existing policy every day and good behavior will follow.
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