When senior leaders contradict the organization’s standards by making inappropriate comments or by failing to deal with others who do so, they’re sending the message to employees that the organization isn’t serious about those standards.
When they require employees to attend ethics and compliance training but don’t show up themselves because they’re “too busy,” or when they joke about mandatory sexual harassment training, employees won’t take the training seriously either.
Leading by example
Managers and team leaders often don’t realize the power they have simply in leading by example. Employees follow the model and attitudes set by leaders, whether they are positive or not. In addition, managers also have a responsibility to monitor the behavior and guard the words and actions of all those who interact in the workplace, including other managers, employees, customers, and vendors.
Managers need to know how to respond when they learn of inappropriate conduct, including how to get basic facts and document workplace events in a professional, consistent manner. They also need to know where to go for help to ensure they are acting consistently with organizational standards and practices. In fact, getting help may be the most important step a manager can take in ensuring a legal, consistent decision is made.
Behaving consistently and professionally in all workplace interactions and decisions is crucial. Managers must be able to make business decisions that align with the organization’s policies and commitment to professional, legal operations. Ultimately, these responsibilities help the organization minimize risk, avoid unnecessary litigation, and build a civil workplace.
A duty to listen and respond
Managers also have an important responsibility to foster an environment where employees are empowered to speak up about concerns, whether related to safety, policy, or legal issues. They can fulfill this duty through their own actions: encouraging employees to come forward with problems, responding appropriately to complaints and taking action to address them, and supporting organizational policies that prohibit retaliation.
Overall, managers must be guardians of the workplace. As the direct line to employees as well as the public, managers and supervisors have special responsibilities for building and maintaining civility in the workplace.
All too often, behavior that could have been addressed early on is allowed to continue, eventually permeating the core of the workplace culture. Had the manager recognized his or her duty and known how to respond, damage to the workplace environment could have been avoided.