Respect at Work

Training programs for mentally safe, fair and respectful workplace cultures



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Stress Less

Posted on 23 July, 2019 at 19:00

Stress less this Stress Down Day

Today (Wednesday 24th July) is National Stress Down Day, an initiative designed to reduce stress and raise funds for Lifeline’s 24-hour crisis support service.

I love my work, I love a deadline, I love training and I love a challenge.  I'm also a small business owner, a sometimes perfectionist, a little bit of a control freak :/ and a stressor.  So I LOVE the reminder of Stress Down Day and often try to schedule a no training day to coincide.  Today is perfect, my day is planned around all of my favourite ways to relax (but still work) — I am off to one of my favourite parts of Tasmania with my laptop, plenty to research, a picnic, an umbrella and hiking boots.  :)

Research shows that 90% of Australians need to stress less - with 74% of people reporting being stressed from work.  A little bit of stress is good for us, it drives our performance and challenges and encourages us but too much stress affects our health and wellbeing. There are so many workplaces that I visit that are in the 'perfect stress storm', they are challenged with under resourcing, management changes, high demands and/or job insecurity.  Not only does this 'stress storm' effect personal emotions and mental health, it effects relationships and job performance, how can you be your best self when your mind is in a stress tangle?

I hope your workplace is embracing Stress Down Day and you are working in PJs, doing lunchtime yoga or taking the dog/cat/bird/lizard to work with you.  If your workplace is not actively on board don't forget to practice self-care; have a healthy lunch, plenty of stretches, walk around the block or chat to someone who makes you smile.  There are plenty of actions and decisions in our days that we can't control so let's make it a habit (not just for today) to think about what is in our circle of influence and practice duty of care — to ourselves and others.

Are you supportive? Always?

Posted on 1 July, 2019 at 0:00

 Photo by Artem Beliaikin @belart84 on Unsplash

How supported a person feels can make a crucial difference in whether stressful workplace situations escalate into problems.  So my question is; Is it difficult to support a co-worker?  I think the first answer for most people is 'no, of course not' — great answer!  With prodding however, 'no, of course not' sometimes becomes, 'well, it depends', who is it?, 'is there any potential cost to me and my job?', or, 'what have they done?'. 

The role of bystander at work is a powerful and important role, your choice of empathy or indifference will make a difference in someone's life.  A simple 'are you ok?', a supportive touch on the shoulder, gentle eye contact, can make a difference to someone who is struggling with a task, situation, day or year.  Even better is to share a cup of tea, have a real conversation or go for a walk together.  The challenge for workplaces, teams and managers is to help bystanders feel comfortable and safe to speak up and offer support.

Feeling supported isn't just for when times are stressful.  We live in a diverse society and our workplaces (mostly) refelect that diversity, whether it be age differences, with many employees staying in the workforce for longer, mental illness, or 'coming out' at work.  Inclusion is what happens when people feel they belong and can be their authentic selves.  Being supported to be your authentic self at work makes a difference, without that freedom people try to hold back an integral part of themselves.  I know that when I am free and valued and not fearful of how my diversity might be judged, I bring my whole self to the workplace — everybody wins.

Everyone has the right to be supported.  Everyone has the right to be shown respect, dignity and consideration, to their everyday self, their culture, their beliefs, their values and their personal characteristics.  It's easy to be supportive of our friends or when it suits us, my responsibility as an employee is to exercise duty of care for ALL of my workmates, ALL of the time — this starts with support and respect.

Respect at Work can help your teams to unpack and recommit to support and respect.

Integrity wins

Posted on 11 June, 2019 at 20:10

Respect needs trust, trust needs respect and personal integrity should be at the forefront.

I've been thinking a lot about complaints lately and I've decided I just don't like them. Don't get me wrong there needs to be a process where issues can be raised and the vulnerable are protected but my concern is about the emotions that get in the way and hijack the process of respectful negotiations and resolutions. Complainants become so consumed with anger, resentment and revenge that they forget what their initial grievance was about, respondents are so aggrieved that someone dared to complain that they forget to listen to the reasons. In my last blog I mentioned that anonymous reporting may help break down a culture of fear but the flip side of that is when the anonymous complaint is made (or escalated) for the wrong reasons.

Life can be tricky and full of lessons learnt, possibly we've all been burnt by someone we've trusted at some stage in life, but, what do you do when 'the burning' happens at work? What happens when what should have been managed by a simple discussion escalates in the workplace? How do you continue respectful relationships once trust and integrity have been damaged? I've been on both sides of workplace complaints, neither is fun, both are exhausting and at times heartbreaking. Damage is done in the process and in my opinion, there are rarely winners in complaints.

When I hear of a conflict (generally workplace based) I almost always wonder what was behind it. Have you ever been in a situation where you feel that you are banging your head against the wall in frustration trying to be heard? Has this frustration affected your perception? Have you ever jumped from 1 to 10 as a response to a single incident because that incident is the last straw? Does the saying 'Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story' resonate?

Workplace relationships are rarely black and white, static, or, always easy. Personal emotions, perspectives and unconscious bias influence our thoughts and actions, and everyone is capable of acting hastily or unwisely at times. Complaints happen, grievances are raised and sometimes fairness needs to be fought for - but surely these processes can be done with more respect.

A good complaint system leaves all parties satisfied that they have been heard and a resolution is reached that meets the satisfaction of all, the complaint is resolved, and life goes on. Rarely is it this simple; emotions are charged, resentment bubbles away, sides are taken, relationships are fractured, friendships lost, trust dissolved, and integrity forgotten. Who wins?

I think the only possible 'winner' is the person who maintains their personal integrity throughout the process. Because without personal integrity, who are we?

Internal reporting? Is it safe?

Posted on 21 May, 2019 at 8:50

 Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I met a young man named Jack Murray from Resolve Advisors, at the No More Harm conference I attended a couple of months ago. Jack and his team are working on a platform called Elker – Elker is being developed as a potential answer to the issue of feeling safe and protected when you want to speak openly and honestly about issues in a workplace. Jack’s team have recognised that a system needs to support, protect and reflect the needs of people and are working on the idea that people feel they can speak safely when they are anonymous.

I’m not great with tech but Elker got me interested – we need new and progressive thinking in this space and maybe this is a start. To paraphrase Jack; this is a program that can run through a workplace, giving everyone the option of encrypted and anonymous reporting. An individual can then choose from a number of options as to who they want their complaint to go to, ensuring that the right person is connected to the right issue.

Perhaps Jack’s presentation interested me so much because of the constant number of conversations I have had with participants telling me that they don’t trust the reporting process in their workplace. People tell me that they don’t fill out paper culture surveys because they are worried that their handwriting might be recognised. In the organisations that have moved to electronic surveys, I’m told that people give false answers in fear that their log-in details will give their identity away. And we’ve all heard the stories of issues and complaints that are never raised.

Another issue with complaints (one that I doubt Elker can fix), is the issue of complaints versus disclosures. The nightmare of Managers and People & Culture teams is the legal mind field of ensuring compliance to the legal duty of care for the organisation. If staff are told that complaints must be formal, yet they are afraid of the potential consequences of a formal complaint; is it any surprise that they don’t bother?

I don’t believe that anonymous reporting will fix all the internal problems in an organisation. The biggest problem I can see is the culture of fear. Culture surveys can be the perfect tool for those in power to gain insight to the needs and strengths of their greatest assets, but only if responses are honest. A management team that makes culture a priority has their eyes open, are inclusive and take positive actions regardless of how they hear the information.

Respect at Work can help you to prioritise your workplace culture and break down cultures of fear.

*Jack mentioned that Elker is in the trial stage of development and would love to hear from organisations that would like to give it a go. [email protected]


Posted on 30 April, 2019 at 3:45

 Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In my last blog I mentioned the emotion shame, I would like to explore that a little further...

Inappropriate workplace behaviours (including bullying) have the capacity to evoke many different emotional responses. Shame is one, others may be; embarrassment, disbelief, humiliation, guilt, fear and/or anger, amongst others.

Targets of inappropriate behaviours may feel shame for different reasons; shame that it is happening to them, shame that they can’t ignore it, shame that they aren’t standing up to the perpetrator/s, shame that it is affecting their work / life / sleep. When someone is subjected to bullying type behaviours, the humiliation, power imbalance and often unfounded criticisms erode at their self-confidence and they may start to feel deserving (and ashamed) of the behaviours they are subjected to. Sometimes a target will start to live down to the expectations of the perpetrators, thus further damaging their self-esteem and again increasing feelings of shame.

Bystanders, who see others treated badly and don’t act, may experience shame. Admitting that shame to others then feels too emotional, so blinkers come down, ears are closed, and another potential avenue of support and intervention is shut down.

Shame is also experienced by the perpetrators (or alleged perpetrators) of inappropriate behaviours. Perpetrators are labelled as ‘bullies’ and then in comes the practice of public ridicule or ‘bully shaming’. Unfortunately, this labelling, shaming and demonising of people may not prevent inappropriate behaviours. Rather, the emotions of shame and guilt may cause the perpetrator to fight for their defence instead of owning and stopping the problem behaviours.

There are no winners in workplace conflict.  Accepting and understanding that we are all susceptible to emotions such as shame is a start to responding to these issues. Just like a fight or flight response, the response to shame is often to shut-down or attack, this is not helpful. To feel shame is not shameful, in fact the courage and vulnerability of admitting shame makes us brave and strong.  

Let’s respect not only what each of us say and do, let’s also respect what we feel.

Brene Brown has a couple of excellent TED talks about shame and vulnerability, have a listen here;

Kindness is free! and so is Respect!

Posted on 1 April, 2019 at 19:45

Photo by James Hammond on Unsplash

Freshly inspired from the 20 presentations I sat in on (and the many more that I wanted to) at the No More Harm Conference https/ last week, I thought I might share some quotes from my 29 pages of scribbled notes.

Here they are;

'Be willing, take responsibility, be vulnerable'
'Repair harm, defend against shame'
'Resilience = grit and patience'
'Good leaders create a circle of safety'
 - Margaret Thorsborne, Margaret Thorsborne and Associates

'There are more men named Andrew heading up companies in the ASX top 100 than there are women'
'The importance of being free and able and empowered'
 - Hanna Wandel, Country to Canberra

'Build trust, name elephants, have courageous conversations'
'Kindness is free'
'Put people at the centre of everything we do'
 - Ainsley Barahona Santos & Lenka Bilik, icare

'When there is deep seated conflict, no amount of forcing people to play games will work'
'Trust and respect is not an on/off switch'
'Step into vulnerability'
'Courage and vulnerability are contagious'
 - Ruth Levy, Ruth Levy Consulting

'You’ve got to be courageous to walk into conflict and if you’re going to do that you have to be prepared to change'
 - Nicole Gibson, The Rouge & Rouge Foundation

'Interrupt our emotional responses'
'Interrupt their emotional responses'
'Become vulnerable and then curious, noticing and reflecting'
 - Paul Zappa, NIRODAH

'Cultural competence is not Harmony Day – It’s when, just like Christmas decorations aren’t questioned, neither are other cultural decorations'
 - Nareen Young, University of Technology Sydney

I found my 2 days to be extremely valuable – not because I necessarily experienced any lightbulb moments but because of the opportunity to revisit so many aspects in this space; to meet and hear from many passionate people doing great work and creating positive change.

Restorative Justice was a constant theme and the emotions of shame and vulnerability were also mentioned by several presenters. Issues of safe reporting and the frustrations and strategies to develop and support safe spaces for all, gave us lots to think and talk about.

No, instances of bullying and cyber bullying haven’t decreased but statistically they haven’t increased either. No, I didn’t hear any miracle strategies, but I did notice a shift in the focus, there was no focus on definitions, motivations, or on Band-aids but rather on positive actions to heal and protect.

Kindness is free! and so is Respect!

No More Harm Conference

Posted on 18 March, 2019 at 18:45

Last Friday was National Day of Action against Bullying & Violence, such an important day, not just for Australian school kids but for everyone; https/ Next week, staying within the theme I will be attending the No More Harm Conference https/ on the Gold Coast. I have attended a couple of these conferences in the past so I’m excited.

The program is jam packed and I can’t decide if I’m more excited about Teams in Turmoil: Improving Intra-Team Respect as the Antidote, Attention Please! Will the Bystander Please Stand Up, The Myth of the Bully Free Workplace or, Blaming the Victim and Hiding the Harm – Changing the Culture of Complaints.

As it’s been a few years since my last conference, what I am hoping for the most is to hear progressive advice and opinions. Strategies and theories about workplace bullying seemed to fall into a static loop for a while and I am looking forward to connecting with / and learning from, some fresh, innovative thinkers in this space.

If you’re a last-minute planner and would like to attend the conference, use the code ROZ19 to register at the early bird discount price.

Do you add or subtract the energy from the room?

Posted on 26 February, 2019 at 18:00

 Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay

I just shared a FaceBook post about kind and happy people that particularly resonated with me on a personal and professional level.

Firstly, the personal perspective.. I have recently had some happy events in my life that were worth sharing by phone and on social media, now I don't think I'm a huge sharer but sometimes social media is just the platform to spread news quickly and easily.  I was surprised and flattered by the beautiful comments and responses to my news, they made my heart smile.  But I wonder how much energy would I had given to a less than positive response?  Could 1 negative response cancel 100 positive ones?  I can think of other instances in my life when rather than be uplifted by overwelming positivity I have lost sleep over the single negative - what a waste of energy.

The professional interaction I am thinking of was during a training session yesterday.  I was talking to some managers about time spent managing staff and how 1 or 2 non-respectful, gossipy, negative employees can take hours of their time.  While in the background the productive, respectful employees do a great job just getting on with their work.  The problem is that the toxic employees take so much time and energy that sometimes the managers don't get around to acknowledging the employees that keep the business flowing.  The balance is wrong!  

When we feel valued and appreciated (and of course respected) we bring more of ourselves to our work, a simple show of acknowledgement can build the energy of an individual which then carries on through the team.

The answer, unfortunately, is not to spend less time on the problems - a head in the sand approach never works!  Perhaps the answer is to keep noticing and acknowledging the good, it doesn't matter how small the acknowledgement as long as you keep adding to the energy.  Give people enough support, respect and kindness that they can see past the small energy sapping negatives.

Respect at Work can help :) 

Water is to goldfish as culture is to ..?

Posted on 30 January, 2019 at 21:00

No, this blog is not about your memory

Imagine you are a goldfish swimming around in your tank of water. Do you think you are aware of the water?  Or is it just there?

What if you suddenly lost the water?  Would it become more important?

Culture to us might be likened to water for a goldfish.

Do you take parts of your culture for granted?

I don’t usually spend a lot of time thinking about my cultural self until something happens to trigger a conscious thought or connection. Like the goldfish, it sometimes takes the loss of something important for me to appreciate (or even notice) what is now missing.

If faced with the loss of country, an integral family member or even a job, the connection of that lost part of self to our identity can be consuming.

Why does this matter?

Our cultural self helps to define our identity. Who I am is influenced by my upbringing, my family, life experiences, education, relationships, work experiences, trauma, tragedy, successes and failures.

This cultural self or identity then impacts my perspectives, my opinions and my behaviours. Yes, I have some control over these things — IF I am aware of them.

If (unlike the goldfish) we take the time to reflect on who we are and acknowledge our cultural influences this awareness will help us to question our perspectives and potentially our unconscious bias.

No, we are not all the same, we are all unique individuals with our own personal history and our cultural selves continue to develop our whole lives.

My cultural self may hold unconscious bias. By becoming conscious of my identity, I can become conscious of bias and shift any biased perspectives thus avoiding any potential disrespectful and/or discriminatory behaviour.

Something to ponder…

Goodbye 2018, hello 2019

Posted on 3 January, 2019 at 0:25

I delivered a LOT of training sessions in the last couple of months of 2018 and to be honest there were a couple that left me feeling exhausted. To be fair I think the participants in question were busy, frustrated employees that really didn't see any benefit to spending their valuable time in a training room. it's not always easy to sell the benefits of training to busy employees.

The people that push my buttons are the few that roll their eyes and talk while others are contributing, strive to suck the energy out of the room, don't refill the empty kettle for the next person and then loudly proclaim "I don't need to be here, I'm already respectful". Respectful to whom I often wonder. I keep my eye on these participants, I listen extra hard when they speak, and I put extra effort to identifying with their frustrations. The gold for me, is when there is a point where something resonates – they start to take notice, sit a little straighter and join in. Unfortunately, golden moments aren't guaranteed, the occasional participant spends the whole session (and potentially the whole day/week/month) feeling resentful and miserable. This is when I wonder why? I wonder what has led them to such resistance? and I try to have more compassion.

While 'debriefing' at home after one of these sessions, my wife reminded me 'this is why you do what you do' – she was right. The sessions that I deliver to rooms full of caring, respectful individuals make my job easy. It's the sessions with the resistant, unhappy participants that keep me constantly on my toes that remind me why Respect at Work exists. One of the best compliments I have received through Respect at Work was from an initially unhappy participant who came up to me after the session and said, 'I didn't want to be here, I thought this would be a waste of my time but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it's given me lots to think about'.

Respect at Work training makes sense and provides the foundation for a great workplace. A respectful, inclusive and positive culture is one where all staff feel comfortable, connected and supported. When staff feel safe, they bring their whole selves to work, they are free to be innovative, express their opinions and even disagree because of the high level of trust and connection in the culture.

So goodbye 2018, I'm looking forward to many more golden moments in 2019