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New RAND study finds 20% of U.S. employees think their workplace is hostile or threatening

Americans face many challenges in the workplace, according to a new study by the RAND Corporation, Harvard Medical School, and UCLA. Released in August, the American Working Conditions Survey found that nearly one in five workers say they face a hostile or threatening social environment at work.
Workplace adversity– combined with stressful news, a highly charged political landscape, and pervasive social media communications– can challenge the cohesiveness, if not the very mission, of many organizations, says Stephen Paskoff, president and CEO of ELI.
“The more you can link behavior to your organizational values and how your values help you reach your mission, the more it brings people together,” says Paskoff, whose Atlanta-based training company has developed the “Civil Treatment Workplace” concept. “Civility is needed now more than ever no matter how you view the day’s issues.”
The study also found that more than one in four American workers say there’s not enough time to do their job, and about one-half of employees report performing some work in their free time. “Work is taxing at the office and it’s taxing when it spills out of the workplace into people’s family lives,” says the study’s lead author Nicole Maestas, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and an adjunct economist at RAND.
There will always be workplace stress and adversity based on market and industry challenges and other externalities. The thing owners and managers can control is creating the right workplace culture, where values are translated into day-to-day behaviors of professionalism, respect, collaboration, and inclusion.
Paskoff recommends the following steps to maximize your biggest investment, your employees, and build a positive culture:

  • Pause before engaging in open conversations or debates about highly charged issues and continue to go above and beyond to welcome concerns.
  • Focus on commonalities through the work you do in teams everyday.
  • Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce your company’s values through actions and written and spoken words. Use respected messengers across the organization.
  • Make Civil Treatment a process, not just an event in your workplace.

For more information about the American Working Conditions Survey, please click here.

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