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Creating a Respectful Workplace. Safety Services Nova Scotia 31 st Annual Conference March 21, 2013 Gary Slauenwhite BBA, FBA, MBA. Negativity at work can be very harmful :. to the organization (production, costs, reputation)

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creating a respectful workplace

Creating a Respectful Workplace

Safety Services Nova Scotia

31st Annual Conference

March 21, 2013

Gary Slauenwhite BBA, FBA, MBA

negativity at work can be very harmful
Negativity at work can be very harmful:
  • to the organization (production, costs, reputation)
  • to employees collectively (division among work groups, cliques)
  • to employees individually (motivation, career development, personal home life).

The concerning danger of workplace negativity is that it is contagious

  • Those who have negative feelings will seek out others who feel the same way, and then try to influence those who don’t
what do we mean by workplace negativity
What do we mean by workplace negativity?
  • Workplace negativity is an attitude that people have toward their work, bosses, colleagues, or customers.
  • So – what’s the bottom line?

It’s a matter of attitude and behavior – YOURS!

  • Your attitude and behavior determines the nature of your workplace environment.
some causes of workplace negativity
Some causes of workplace negativity
  • A work climate of distrust or mistrust (especially towards management)*
  • Lack of recognition for the level of contribution and effort*
  • An excessive workload*
  • Distracted or disenchanted employees
  • Anxiety about the future
  • Lack of challenge in work, boredom with work tasks
  • Feeling of loss of control over personal well-being
some outcomes of workplace negativity
Some outcomes of workplace negativity
  • It’s not enjoyable to come to work anymore
  • Too much time spent on complaining, griping, gossiping
  • Bad mouthing to other departments, customers, clients
  • Managers spend too much time dealing with negativity
  • Question the motives or “hidden agendas” behind changes/requests
  • High absenteeism (sickness, stress), employee turnover
  • Adversarial management/employee or employee/employee relationships (verbal abuse, aggression, physical abuse)
how do we create a respectful workplace
How do we create a respectful workplace?
  • Respect: esteem; consideration; regard; admiration; high opinion; revere
  • Respectable: worthy of esteem; well-behaved; proper; correct; well-conducted
respect at the workplace is displayed more than explained
Respect at the workplace is displayed more than explained.
  • Employees are performing their work – doing a good job.
  • Employees are following the rules (the spirit of the rules) – rules are a safety net for conduct at work.
  • People get along with each other – they are polite, courteous, inclusive, have social conversations as well as work conversations, comfortable about sharing personal stuff.

Employees talk to each other and attempt to resolve any disagreements, hiccups.

  • They have high expectations of each other and they invest time and energy in helping one another.
  • Work is a place they feel good about being there.
  • There is an open forum to express opinions, discuss problems/issues between employees and management

Employees enjoy responsibility and strive to work with more responsibility

  • Customers routinely give positive feedback
  • Where injury, accident and harassment claims are low
  • When something goes wrong, the focus is on isolating and understanding the cause and not blaming people
  • There is a sense of empowerment where workers feel they can improve their job

A respectful workplace cannot be mandated, commanded, constructed – they are developed, cultivated, formed over time.

  • It takes work, a lot of patience, good leadership and commitment to get there.

A respectful workplace is one where there is a respectful culture – similar to a safe workplace having a safety culture.

  • The responsibility for a respectful workplace is a shared responsibility between the employer/manager and individual employees. The same as the Internal Responsibility System in the OHS Act.
  • Each one has the ability and responsibility to contribute to and help create a respectful workplace.
steps to developing a respectful workplace from an organizational perspective
Steps to developing a Respectful Workplace(from an organizational perspective)
  • Benchmark
    • Identify the problem(s) – evaluate the present work environment.
    • Identify the people or groups of people who are being negative and what they are negative about

Where do you want to be…

    • In six months, 1 year, 2 years, etc.
    • Are these goals measureable (how will you measure them)
    • How will you deal with obstacles
    • What will your respectable work environment look like?

How will you get there?

    • SWOT – current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats
    • Who will take the initiative (one person, team)
    • What resources are available and committed (time, money, people, technology, etc.)
    • Internal and external resources


    • Develop a communication plan
    • Use various forms of communication – different media for different audiences
    • Be current in communicating
    • Encourage worker input at the outset of the initiative
    • Ensure there are feedback mechanisms in place throughout the process
    • Create dialog (horizontal and vertical) and be open and honest in the dialog


    • Who are your major stakeholders
    • What is their degree of influence over other workers
    • What kind of influence do they have
    • Ensure there is a role for each worker to play (be creative if you have to)

Create short term wins – build momentum with rewards and incentives

    • Establish stages of change that are achievable and measurable
    • Celebrate successes – even the small ones
    • Track progress – visualize it
    • Recognize collective change in behavior and outcomes – plaques, coffee parties, etc.
    • Recognize individual change in behavior and outcomes – performance reviews

Consolidate improvements/changes

    • Modify your approaches to achieving your goals and objectives as necessary to reflect what you are learning along the way
    • Develop policies & procedures manual


    • The progress/outcomes at set stages
    • Re-examine the workplace at the end and compare with your benchmark findings
    • What further changes are necessary
employer s manager s role
Employer’s/Manager’s Role
  • Manager’s need to recognize that negativity at the workplace is the result of bad/poor behavior.
  • When addressing the issue it is important to focus on the behavior not the person (otherwise they become defensive and create more negativity by accusing you of attacking them)
some things you can do as a manager
Some things you can do as a manager:
  • Provide opportunities for your workers to make decisions about and control and/or influence their own job. (allow them to have input)
  • Give workers opportunity to express their opinion about workplace policies and procedures.
    • Listen for good and legitimate issues/concerns – solicit input for solutions
    • Group discussions, lunches, one-on-one
  • Treat your workers as adults with fairness and consistency.

Do not create “rules” for all workers if only a few are violating the norms

  • Help workers feel like members of the group – share the same information with everyone
  • Give workers the opportunity to grow and develop their skills
    • From an OH&S perspective:
    • Involve your workers in OH&S – promote champions from within (WHMIS, First-Aid, Inspections, etc.)
    • Give them something they enjoy/like to excel in and then support them in that role. (time, training, tools)

Provide good leadership and strategic direction – (mission, vision, values, goals)

  • Provide appropriate rewards and recognition
  • Challenge pessimistic and negative thinking/expression
  • Confront individuals with their unacceptable behavior – focus on creating change (be specific)
    • Be assertive towards those who are determined to be pessimistic/negative
  • Don’t get caught in the negativity cycle (words, actions, non-verbal expressions)

Take “time outs” when dealing with stressful situations – regenerate your positive/respectful batteries

  • You are part of the team – not just the boss
    • Your workers need to feel that management is part of “us,” not “them”
  • The job of a manager is to actively help your workers succeed.
    • Focus on giving your workers exciting, challenging assignments, and help them succeed at them
    • Your job is to positively motivate your workers, encourage involvement, and support their ideas
    • It’s about interpersonal skill, emotional intelligence and social interactions
employee s role
Employee’s Role
  • Every negative person has a story – and don’t we know it!
  • In fact, we all have a story. What part of you are you feeding (negative or positive)
some things you can do as a worker
Some things you can do as a worker:
  • Avoid spending time with a negative co-worker(s)
  • If you have to work beside a negative co-worker(s), set limits.
    • Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into their negativity/discussions
  • Don’t become a sympathetic audience for negativity
  • Stay positive and let your co-worker(s) know you are only interested in positive conversations

Counterbalance a negative story/comment with a positive one

  • Be prepared and willing to become an agent of change
    • The more positive you become the more other co-workers will want to work with you (they’re tired of the negativity too but don’t know how to make the change)
  • Suggest your negative co-worker(s) get assistance (EAP, manager, HR)
  • Inform your manager of the situation – they can help.
  • A respectful workplace is one where there is a respectful culture
  • The responsibility for developing that respectful culture is a shared responsibility – it doesn’t belong only to the employer/manager
  • Each one of us, regardless of our position, has the responsibility and ability (through our attitude and behavior) to make our workplace a respectful workplace