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Monthly Archives

January 2017

Something Organizations with Bullying Have in Common

By | Workplace bullying | No Comments

I’m a consultant who works with companies that have a culture problem. Organizations call me when employee behavior has gotten out of control, and people are acting aggressively, and it’s affecting performance, and people just aren’t getting things done. I get called in to work with those organizations to create a different kind of a work environment, where people can function and even thrive.

Time and time and time and time again, what I see in these organizations who have this problem, is they have not been focusing on their vision, mission or core values. If they were, there wouldn’t be bullying.

  1. Your organization probably falls into one of three buckets:There is no vision, mission or values.
  2. Vision, mission and values exist, but no one ever talks about them or even knows what they are.
  3. Your organization has them and they are a big part of daily functioning.

If your organization falls into bucket one or two, eventually people’s behavior – and maybe even yours – starts to get out of control and people aren’t acting in a way that pushes your vision forward. And that’s how you lose control like many of my clients.

Let’s talk about vision first.

A vision tells the world and your employees what you’re trying to accomplish.

Now, there are hundreds of articles and books out there on the topic of employee engagement, and 99% of them say that employees need to have a greater purpose, or meaning, in their work in order to be engaged. A vision can facilitate that.

If you don’t have a vision, or if you’re not constantly reminding your employees about the vision, then your employees aren’t attached to where you’re trying to go. Therefore their engagement and their productivity aren’t being maximized.

Your vision is all about what you’re trying to get to. It should be a strong powerful statement. For example, if you’re starting a nonprofit in your community to feed the homeless and hungry in your own community, then a good vision might be something like. “To erase hunger and homelessness in this community.”

Now when your employees – and when you – come to work you all have something to strive for. Each year, you’ll set goals to put a larger and larger dent in hunger and homelessness, always reaching for that 100%.

The point is that you have to give everyone something to work toward. It gives people meaning in their work, and in turn can help drive performance and engagement.

Next, let’s talk about mission. 

While your vision is all about what you’re trying to accomplish, or what will be when your work is finished, your mission is all about how you’ll get there. Going back to your vision of ending hunger in your community, your mission statement might be something around research and education, obtaining volunteers, and developing strong partnerships. This is the how.

In another example, if you have a clothing line, and your vision is to make every person who wears your clothes feel amazing, then perhaps your mission is around using quality products, designers in your community, and offering great value.

Now let’s talk core values.

If vision is about what you’re trying to accomplish, and mission is how you accomplish that, core values are all about how you behave in order to achieve your vision and mission.

If you don’t have or aren’t focusing on core values, then your employees don’t know what’s required of them to achieve the vision.

One problem I see in core values is that they are often boring! Everybody says the same thing: Integrity, diversity, customer service… one trendy core value these days is, “act like an owner.” Blaaach.

What about values that mean something?

For example, one restaurant with several locations in Los Angeles serves chili hamburgers and hotdogs. They’ve been around since the forties, and they told me that great grandpa, who started this business, always made a big deal about not being stingy with the chili. In fact, he fired people if he caught them being stingy.

This restaurant might do well to create core values around this very interesting history. How about core values that start with, “Don’t be stingy with chili,” and also include, “Don’t be stingy with service?” and, “Don’t be stingy with quality.”

In the end, whether you have 3 or 15 or 100 or 5,000 employees, you need a vision, mission and core values. They literally drive your business. They give employees meaning in their work, drive your business decisions, and help employees understand how they are supposed to behave.

Talk about your vision, mission and values often – make them a part of everything you do. All of them should be powerful, and short, so people remember them.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Sincerely,

Catherine

Handouts for Ascentis webinar

By | Workplace bullying | No Comments

If you attended the Ascentis webinar, here are the handouts I showed in my presentation:

Here are some additional tools you can use with your staff or managers:

  • Examples of bullying behavior (a list of behaviors from each category of behavior, aggressive communication, humiliation, and manipulation)
  • Culture assessment (find out if your organization has a culture of bullying)
  • Professionalism job aid (a job aid managers can follow as they have an open discussion with their staff about professionalism in your workplace)

Enjoy!

Brace Yourself – The Bottom Means Bounce

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces, Leadership, Workplace bullying | No Comments

I had the pleasure of being asked to share my personal story at an event here in Southern California called SUE Talks (TEDTalks’ baby sister).

If you have 15 minutes and want to know what drives my passion for creating positive workplaces, take a peek. I’ll tell you lessons learned from my experience with workplace bullying, and lessons learned from another (crazy) experience.

Thank you for watching!

Are you sure workplace bullying is legal?

By | Workplace bullying | No Comments

According to OSHA’s website, “workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.”

Two out of those four examples are describing workplace bullying, also known by workplace violence experts as Level I violence. Of course, OSHA requires employers to provide their employees with a place of employment that is free from hazards that are causing or likely to cause harm to employees. Sure sounds like OSHA makes bullying illegal… but… unfortunately, reality says otherwise.

I haven’t heard of any court cases where the plaintiff’s attorney used workplace violence and bullying synonymously. I haven’t heard of anyone filing a complaint with OSHA for workplace bullying. I haven’t even heard of anyone else comparing OSHA’s description of violence to workplace bullying.

Why?

According to the EEOC’s website, harassment is unwelcome conduct that “becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.”

This definition is describing workplace bullying… but… alas… this description comes with the caveat that harassment is, “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

Why is the same exact behavior described by the EEOC as illegal, legal, as long as it’s not based on one of these characteristics?

Why are we so hung up on whether the behaviors are aimed at a protected class. If they are – it’s harassment and it’s illegal and we do an investigation. If they are not – it’s bullying and we don’t think it’s a big deal. Or maybe we consider it to be conflict, or an interpersonal problem for people to resolve themselves. That just doesn’t make any sense.

Harassment and bullying are all so similar that the only place differences will be truly be scrutinized are in the courtroom. This is already happening all across America, even without laws specifically prohibiting workplace bullying. I’ve been an expert witness in three of them: two against government agencies, and one against a billion dollar retailer.

Why not just put a stop to bullying and focus on creating a positive work environment long before that happens?

One step to solving workplace bullying is to get leadership to believe you when you say bullying is a problem that needs to be addressed.

The C-Suite often needs information about liability, and data on the damages, if they are going to approve an initiative like this. Share the similarities between level 1 violence and harassment, and share with the C-Suite that there are already hundreds of cases about workplace bullying happening all around us.

Also, consider creating an excel sheet that lays out the cost of not solving workplace bullying. Consider things like how much time it takes you to council targets, how many employees have left, the price of replacing those folks, and more. Put it all into a spreadsheet, and share it with your C-Suite.

Another step is to implement a healthy workplace corporate policy (not an anti-bullying policy) that provides information about what respectful and civil behavior looks like in your organization.

Most of my colleagues suggest an anti-bullying policy, but your corporate policy handbook already provides many lists of what not to do. While this policy should define and describe bullying, it should focus on what behaviors are required from employees to create a respectful work environment.

In order to gain buy-in for your new policy, seek help from your employees to write it. During your next staff meeting or harassment training, break your attendees into groups of three or four, and give them 10 minutes to brainstorm what behaviors they would like to see from their co-workers and managers. Simply ask them, “How would you like to be treated by your peers and managers?”

After the brainstorming time is over, ask each group to share their answers, and put them in your policy. Get the full instructions for this process here on my website.

As my book, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying, discusses, another important step to solving bullying is to ensure your performance management system requires that everyone is being measured against your core values. Whatever your core values are, I am positive disrespect, workplace bullying, abuse and harassment are not included in them.

If your performance evaluations, for example, require that people are measured against the core values, then anyone who bullies would be marked down and, hopefully, their promotion or bonus withheld until they adjust their behavior. Maybe they even go on a performance improvement plan, or get demoted from their supervisory position if requests to change behavior aren’t successful.

In another example, if your rewards system ensures people who live the values are rewarded, then no bully would be getting rewarded.

In conclusion, the point is that HR professionals, managers and leaders all have the ability to set it up so that bullying cannot thrive in your organization. You can create a space where bullies stand out and either conform to more respectful behaviors or take themselves down the path of discipline, up to and including termination.

My book, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying, offers a total of 10 steps to take in order to not only eradicate workplace bullying, but actually replace it with a positive and engaged workforce and environment. Follow those 10 steps and I can literally guarantee the results.

Finding Civility in a Sea of Bullying

By | Workplace bullying | No Comments

At an organization whose mission was to help people with disabilities thrive in the community, the workplace bullying had become rampant. The former CEO had apparently been a real bully, and his leadership had dripped downward into the organization. Insidiously, a culture of bullying and negativity crept into every corner of the organization.

The bullying had gotten so bad that it affected the organization drastically. In fact, during an annual audit by the industry’s accrediting body, the negative culture came to light. Sadly, the organization failed the audit and was given two years to turn things around in a major way. If they didn’t their accreditation would be stripped. Staff, providers of services, and the families they served were devastated. Morale was low and union activity began to fester.

As a result, the board of directors asked the CEO to step down, and they replaced him with a new CEO. The new CEO’s mission was to ensure the follow-up audit would be passed, and that the organization would be restored to its original glory. Although new to the organization, this CEO wasn’t new to leading, and she quickly decided the organization needed a culture overhaul if she were going to succeed.

In partnership with Civility Partners, the CEO devised a five-step plan:
1. Train the leaders, managers, and supervisors in driving culture change
2. Create a culture committee made up of people from all levels of the organization
3. Create a social vision that would drive the new culture
4. Update the core values so that they resonated with the employees
5. Develop a strategic plan around the new values

As the plan took shape and began to move forward many were uneasy with the changes. Although they wanted a more positive workplace, change is scary for everyone. And when you’re a bully, positive change can be really scary because it means you’ll have to learn new ways of behaving.In the end, the organization passed their follow-up audit with flying colors, the union activity ceased, and this workplace became, once again, a positive place to be.

In the end, the organization passed their follow-up audit with flying colors, the union activity ceased, and this workplace became, once again, a positive place to be.

You need a vision, mission and core values

By | Leadership | No Comments

I’m a consultant who works with companies that have a culture problem. Organizations call me when employee behavior has gotten out of control, and people are acting aggressively, and it’s affecting performance, and people just aren’t getting things done. I get called in to work with those organizations to create a different kind of a work environment, where people can function and even thrive.

Time and time and time and time again, what I see in these organizations who have this problem, is they have not been focusing on their vision, mission or core values. If they were, there wouldn’t be bullying.

Your organization probably falls into one of three buckets:

  1. There is no vision, mission or values.
  2. Vision, mission and values exist, but no one ever talks about them or even knows what they are.
  3. Your organization has them and they are a big part of daily functioning.

If your organization falls into bucket one or two, eventually people’s behavior – and maybe even yours – starts to get out of control and people aren’t acting in a way that pushes your vision forward. And that’s how you lose control like many of my clients.

Let’s talk about vision first.

A vision tells the world and your employees what you’re trying to accomplish.

Now, there are hundreds of articles and books out there on the topic of employee engagement, and 99% of them say that employees need to have a greater purpose, or meaning, in their work in order to be engaged. A vision can facilitate that.

If you don’t have a vision, or if you’re not constantly reminding your employees about the vision, then your employees aren’t attached to where you’re trying to go. Therefore their engagement and their productivity aren’t being maximized.

Your vision is all about what you’re trying to get to. It should be a strong powerful statement. For example, if you’re starting a nonprofit in your community to feed the homeless and hungry in your own community, then a good vision might be something like. “To erase hunger and homelessness in this community.”

Now when your employees – and when you – come to work you all have something to strive for. Each year, you’ll set goals to put a larger and larger dent in hunger and homelessness, always reaching for that 100%.

The point is that you have to give everyone something to work toward. It gives people meaning in their work, and in turn can help drive performance and engagement.

Next, let’s talk about mission.

While your vision is all about what you’re trying to accomplish, or what will be when your work is finished, your mission is all about how you’ll get there. Going back to your vision of ending hunger in your community, your mission statement might be something around research and education, obtaining volunteers, and developing strong partnerships. This is the how.

In another example, if you have a clothing line, and your vision is to make every person who wears your clothes feel amazing, then perhaps your mission is around using quality products, designers in your community, and offering great value.

Now let’s talk core values.

If vision is about what you’re trying to accomplish, and mission is how you accomplish that, core values are all about how you behave in order to achieve your vision and mission.

If you don’t have or aren’t focusing on core values, then your employees don’t know what’s required of them to achieve the vision.

One problem I see in core values is that they are often boring! Everybody says the same thing: Integrity, diversity, customer service… one trendy core value these days is, “act like an owner.” Blaaach.

What about values that mean something?

For example, one restaurant with several locations in Los Angeles serves chili hamburgers and hotdogs. They’ve been around since the forties, and they told me that great grandpa, who started this business, always made a big deal about not being stingy with the chili. In fact, he fired people if he caught them being stingy.

This restaurant might do well to create core values around this very interesting history. How about core values that start with, “Don’t be stingy with chili,” and also include, “Don’t be stingy with service?” and, “Don’t be stingy with quality.”

In the end, whether you have 3 or 15 or 100 or 5,000 employees, you need a vision, mission and core values. They literally drive your business. They give employees meaning in their work, drive your business decisions, and help employees understand how they are supposed to behave.

Talk about your vision, mission and values often – make them a part of everything you do. All of them should be powerful, and short, so people remember them.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.