What is this about?
Making sure that your conduct at work does not cause problems for you.
Employers have a ‘duty of care’ which is implied in all employment contracts. That means they are responsible for ensuring you are cared for at work and you do not have to work in unhealthy or unsafe conditions. That includes conditions which are stressful or degrading to you. Many employers have updated their personnel policies and management procedures to ensure that they do not fall foul of the law. Some of those policies are about the behaviour of people in the workplace and other situations related with work, and in view of the changes in the law, if you are gay or lesbian it can be advantageous to ask yourself the following questions:
What laws, policies and procedures exist and affect me?
Do those policies mean I need to change my behaviour to avoid problems, and succeed at work?
What resources and information about behaviour is available to me?
How should I fine tune my performance and behaviour so that I can achieve equality at work?
Most employers have policies which address the issue of behaviour (sometimes called conduct or harassment) in the workplace. The legal term is ‘conduct’. Usually the policies refer to harassment, which is when the behaviour of one person affects the rights and dignity of a second person to an extent that offence is given. So, sexual harassment is behaviour of a sexual nature which offends the person on the receiving end of it. There are also situations where someone is singled out for different treatment from other people, for instance if they are of a different sex, race, ability or sexuality. That is also harassment, a serious offence which might involve criminal offences under the Public Order or Protection of Harrassment Acts. Sometimes there is a single incident, but often there is continual behaviour which causes offence – for instance repeated name-calling, intimidation or belittling of a person. When it is continual behaviour, it can be regarded as bullying.
If something goes wrong, you would normally expect there to be a complaint, an investigation, perhaps an interview and a decision by a senior manager, then if the outcome did not satisfy all the parties, perhaps an internal appeal. If upheld, a complaint may result in some kind of disciplinary action being taken against the person whose behaviour had caused offence. That might include loss of grade or pay, or other privilege. Most of the time, problems with behaviour do not end up in court or in an industrial tribunal, but in some exceptional cases they do; so it is in your interests as an employer or employee to do all you can to understand how a persons’ behaviour affects other people, and access information or training that will help you use your own behaviour, which includes your communication and people skills, effectively and in everyones’ interests.
If you think there are aspects of your own behaviour which you would like to consider, contact your training or HR department to see if there are any training materials you can work through such as books or video packages which address the subjects of interpersonal communication, body language and behaviour, or assertiveness. These materials will have models of behaviour that you can compare yourself with and measure yourself by, and they will help you analyse your own behaviour as others experience it. For instance, do you come over as a helpful and co-operative team member and friend, or are you seen as pushy and aggressive? Are you a good listener or a poor listener? Is your managerial style on the right side of bullying?
If you think there are real or imagined barriers at work that are preventing you from getting any further in your career, find out whether there is a ‘positive action course’ that will help you identify and remove those barriers.
If you want to analyse your personal style in depth, and make subtle changes to the way you do things and communicate with people, you may care to investigate models of behaviour which look at the way people interact with each other. These models look at communications, body language, and how people function.
If you are a member of a trade union or a professional association, find out whether they have any appropriate training or other resources.
If you want to practice your new skills, see whether there is some work related, community or voluntary activity you can do which will help you put them into effect. Or perhaps you might be interested in being mentored, which is when someone provides an additional layer of support for you by being there to listen, explore ideas and help you make decisions.
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Page updated and links checked 24 March 2013
Proof read 24 March 2013