It is not uncommon to find instances where employees have gone through particularly trying times in an organisation – you’ll find most of them in the newspapers, and on social media!
Cases of sexual harassment, unfairness, racial discrimination, bullying and lack of inclusion are some of the recurrent issues that companies grapple with. In such situations, the HR personnel of these organisations also come under scrutiny and are questioned. Such instances cast a gloom over individuals, brand reputation, geographies and even entire industries.
These are situations that the HR might struggle with, even as they try to maintain a workplace that is pleasant and suitable for employees to give their best!
There are three fundamental issues which, if dealt with effectively, can drastically reduce the probability of the occurrence of uncomfortable exchanges between employees.
Major Challenges That The HR Might Have Trouble Facing!
Let’s look at the major issues where the HR might screw up, and the ways in which they can tackle it!
The Issue: Condoning Bad Behaviour Camouflaged By Great Performance
While an employee might be an excellent performer bringing in more business, saving resources and contributing to the improvement of the brand image in the eyes of investors and clients, he or she might not extend the required courtesies to their own colleagues or subordinates.
This can dampen the morale of those who have to face such a person’s behaviour, which in turn will affect their work, inviting more negative comments. It is a downward spiral which if triggered can make upcoming performers become weak.
Due to the former’s success, the latter might not be able to take action against the off-putting behaviour.
Action: Differentiate Between Performance And Behaviour
What the HR can do is two-fold.
Firstly, a clear distinction between work and interactions must be established. Separate parameters for capturing the two aspects of the same employee must be developed and used.
Secondly, the HR must not allow setting off of the benefit from work against default in expected behaviour or allow the excellent behaviour to cover up for the fact that an employee is underperforming. Distinct and objective metrics for measuring the two should be used to dole out the reward.
The Issue: Not Paying Attention To Soft Skills
An average office-goer has varied tasks right from focusing on their core work, sending emails to obtaining resources and attending meetings. Almost all of this involves interacting with many people – but he or she might not know who to talk to, even if they want to. This can build up and lead to catastrophic consequences.
Negative newsflashes along these lines are a testimony to the fact that technical skills are not the only area that needs to be focused on during training sessions.
Action: Development Of Soft Skills Along With Technical Expertise
Apart from readying an employee to perform his or her duties properly, the HR team must place special emphasis on soft skill training, particularly on extreme behaviour. The rules, codes of conduct and policies must be expressly discussed when an employee joins the organisation.
Frequent reminders through e-mails or other channels must be made so that this issue does not get swept under the volume of work. All employees must get compulsorily retrained periodically in the subject of extreme behaviour and its consequences.
Sessions to develop the sensitivity of employees to such behaviour must also be carried out. Strong emphasis on correct behaviour and awareness about the consequences of noncompliance will ensure that however emotional people get, they think twice before acting on it. Employees must also be assured that their privacy will be maintained when it comes to sensitive issues.
The Issue: Allowing Abuse Of Authority
We are all taught to respect and fear authority. We carry this ideology with us wherever we go, including the workplace. Authority is established by seniority, age, experience and nature of work handled. While it does not happen all the time, there are a few instances where a person abuses their power for some personal gain.
It is usually a junior person or a newcomer who is the victim. The latter might not speak up and express their concerns. This may be either to protect themselves from entering the limelight for wrong reasons, salvaging their career advancement or out of sheer fear.
When such situations keep recurring, they might go unnoticed for a while. However, they the potential to cause huge, often irreversible damage.
Action: Have Open Lines Of Communication
It is not possible to control the behaviour of other people. What the HR can do is to encourage people to voice their concerns.
This can be done by providing a platform for employees to express their concerns in an organised and safe space. Technology can be of great assistance here.
Aside from this practice, the HR should also ensure that the workforce sees the HR team as approachable and friendly so that sensitive issues that require a personal connection can be discussed without any inhibition. Displaying this behaviour will invite employees to share their issues.
Keeping communication lines alive also involves giving timely, firm yet polite feedback to those concerned. Having a specific team of HR personnel who can be approached specifically for touchy issues can resolve the confusion if any regarding whom the employees should approach.
Attracting and retaining good talent requires providing an atmosphere that is free from harassment of any sort and magnitude. While there will always be situations where the HR might falter, they serve as opportunities to implement the necessary preventive measures!