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Workbooks and Training Programs:

Conference papers

Strategic Stress Initiative

This project was undertaken within a Local Government department.
The complete Conference Paper was published by the Australian Institute Of Animal Management in October, 2007. Below is a condensed version.

“Strategic Stress Initiative”

“Local Law, Animal Management and Regulatory Services Officers are routinely subjected to high levels of stress by the nature of their work.  Such stress can lead to short-term and long-term difficulties within the Units operation, like higher staff turnover, extended sick leave, low morale, and burnout.

Being aware of Occupational Health and Safety issues, a proactive strategy was undertaken to investigate the causes of stress within a Regulatory environment and to design and implement initiatives to counteract them.

This study involved interviewing all employees of the respective Unit to ascertain the extent and causes of stress. The benefits of collecting data via interviews rather than relying upon assessment questionnaires are many. Personal interviews yield more information; they imply that the employees input is valued; and they build a rapport that greatly facilitates the implementation of solutions and change initiatives.

The subjective data was sorted into themes. Nine themes and causes of stress were identified, and twelve intervention strategies were designed as solutions to these.  However due to internal restraints, only five interventions were implemented in the areas of Communication, Debriefing, Professional Development, and Recruitment. 

In Conclusion

The general response to the stress interventions was positive from all members of the Unit. Reportedly, tensions had been reduced between Managers, and between Departments. From ongoing contact with staff over a period of eight months, it was apparent that the ambient level of stress within the whole Unit was lower, even though only 5 of the 12 recommendations to curb stress had been implemented. These results suggest that the stress interventions were appropriate to the issues raised in the research data.”

Since this project, a specialist computer software application was developed to make the survey and data collation more efficient and more cost effective.



Reducing Long Term Recruiting Costs with a Better Job–Fit.

The complete Conference Paper was published by the Australian Institute Of Animal Management in October, 2007. Below is a condensed version.

“Reducing Long Term Costs of Recruiting Local Ordinance Officers:
Improving selection for a “job fit” that requires both people and animal management skills”

The expense of recruiting new staff is becoming an increasing burden for local government and the figure of $10,000 for the recruitment of one person is not uncommon. 

Aggravating this situation is the fact that the job (in this case animal control and local laws), comes with significant stress and often a relatively high staff turnover.

With this mix comes a need for the recruit to have additional skill sets involving education, marketing, information technology, regulations, social welfare, safety awareness, people skills, a practical attitude, and animal control. 

During a recent investigation and research project with a South-East Queensland Local Government, it became apparent that an improvement in job-match recruitment methods might reduce the long-term financial burden of recruitment, and contribute to a reduction of stress in some work areas. 

The ideal personality characteristics for the job (Regulatory Officer) were ascertained in collaboration with key stakeholders including existing Regulatory Officers, Senior Management, and a Management Consultant.

New recruitment strategies were applied, particularly the use of psychological profiling for Emotional Intelligence, and the use of an external recruiting agency to cull applicants. 

The effectiveness and success of the new recruitment strategies are considered in terms of longevity of employment, level of job satisfaction, and employee morale.

So what are the qualities needed to be an effective ordinance enforcer?

The top five qualities that Regulatory Services Staff considered important in their job are:

  1. Be of Good Character.
    (Trust, honesty, approachability, and integrity.)
  2. Good Communication skills.
    (Interpersonal skills, team player, multicultural awareness and acceptance)
  3. Ability to Accept the Role and Responsibilities.
    (Including helping others, and the ability to work under limited supervision.)
  4. Life experience.
    (Commonsense, lateral thinking, willingness to embrace new  technology/ideas/methods, open-minded, good presentation.)  
  5. Trust in their abilities and in their employer.

Top 3 attributes to avoid:

  1. Poor attitude.
    (Confrontational, aggressive, racist, sexist, non-professional, argumentative.)
  2. Unreliability.
    (Check previous employment history, criminal history, mental health history.)
  3. Overconfidence/over experience.
    (Self-absorbed, less inclined to work as part of a team with others.)

The desirable attributes offered by the Regulatory Service staff all focused upon behaviour and attitude. However behaviour and attitude, although important, aren't everything.

The role of Emotional Intelligence Assessments.

Emotional Intelligence is called E.Q.  An EQ assessment is not about how people use their logical brain but rather about how they respond and use the sensory data we receive as human beings.

E.Q. assessments explore Intra-personal awareness; Interpersonal abilities ; how stress is managed; adaptability ; and stability of moods.

These personality characteristics reflect the ability to act and make decisions gleaned from conscious and unconscious sensory information.  What we do with this information and how we interpret it, affects our mood, how we cope with stress, how we affect other people, and how we adapt to different situations.
In other words it reflects much of our ability to deal with the external world.

Thus EQ identifies the inherent coping skills of a person, and from the more effective Regulatory Officers observed, the following coping skills stood out:

These coping skills contribute to such things as: patience; the “quiet” use of one’s authority; the ability to be effective under stress; interpersonal skills for avoiding conflict and for dealing with conflict; and the ability to adapt to a situation.

Note that the ability to adapt to changing situations is closely linked to coping well with stress because these two things affect each other.

It is now considered that E.Q. is generally a better predictor of someone’s success in a particular job than is I.Q.  Apparently the CEO’s of the top Fortune 500 companies were asked about how they made business decisions. They all said (without exception), that they examined the data and arguments relating to their decision, and then made up their minds based upon “gut feelings”.

Consider how a job might evolve.

When filling a position or promoting someone, it is important that we don’t just consider how skilled they are or how well applicants did in their last job.  You first have to ask how might the job evolve over the next 5 years given, Socio, Economic, Political, and Technological changes. For instance, many field officers must now be able to use a GPS navigation system and onboard computers. Some of these items were not part of the role 5 years previously.

What is the main message about staff selection?

To begin with we are always constrained by the materials we choose.

When we build anything, whether it be a house or a work-team, or changing the organization’s culture toward an efficient non-blaming Systems Focused Environment, we are always constrained by the materials we choose as much as we are by our knowledge of how to use them.

Sorting people into jobs in which they are best suited is like collecting the best building materials before you build. Poor building materials reduce your design possibilities. For example, if you use low-grade support beams, you will need additional engineering to get the support and strength you require. This is true of Managers and Supervisors who are not well suited to their jobs  will require additional costly support from within the organization to facilitate their working effectively. Hence there are tangible benefits for effective staff selection.


The importance of an employee' s job fit is important in any circumstance. However it can be critical if they are in a position of Supervisor or Manager, especially with regard to efficiency, quality control, harmonious staff relations, and crisis management.



Newspaper / Magazine Articles

The Hidden Employee.

“The Hidden Employee: Ally or Adversary?”

The hidden employee can make a business hum along efficiently and smoothly while making the workplace a pleasant environment. Alternately it can make it  inefficient, stressful, and more difficult to manage. Yes, I did refer to the “hidden employee” as “it”. So who or what is this “hidden employee”?               
The hidden employee is the work culture of your business or organization, and it is primarily influenced by the attitudes, behaviour, and communication of the people in charge.

I call the workplace culture “the hidden employee” because it is not obvious like other components of the workplace, and it is hard for business owners and managers to recognize because they are part of it. 

Your workplace culture has a powerful effect upon efficiency, output, customer satisfaction, crisis management, and employee job satisfaction.  These in turn affect staff retention, workplace stress, repeat business, the quality of your product or service, and your bottom line. However it is your customers who will see and experience the attitudes and professionalism or otherwise in your workplace. To underscore this point, I would suggest that you as a customer are aware of the businesses and organisations in your town that are customer focused and friendly, and the ones that aren’t.

In the past, workplace culture has mostly been about such things as Management style, worker empowerment, workplace agreements, quality assurance, and teamwork.  The looming issues of workplace culture today are more about running a “lean” business, identifying where you are competitive and where you lose customers, the costs of Stress, the problems created by a Blame Culture at work, plus the costs of selecting and keeping staff in a skills shortage labour market.

Typically, much attention goes into selecting staff and training. With few exceptions the culture at work is allowed to evolve unnoticed until a problem arises from it. This oversight presents us with opportininties to enhance excellence and efficiency throughout our workplace culture as is beginning to happen overseas. 

Finally, I’ll leave you with this quote from the Institute of Work Psychology University of Sheffield, 2001:
“A company that solely focuses on having the best tools, techniques, strategies, skills and knowledge for the job, yet ignores how the employees are effected by the system or how employees relate to one another, will be ineffective. Instead an organization must strive to enhance both the technological and the social aspects of work.”  (Published in the Range Review, Dec. 2008. Maleny.)



Destructive Workplace Blame Cultures and HOW TO transform them.

Workculture is usually not thought through or planned and facilitated, because it’s not recognised as core business, yet it controls how core business is managed.

Most organizations have Blame Cultures hidden within them. It's a legacy from childhood resulting from our parents and teachers trying to teach us personal responsibility and social skills. 

More often than not, if we admitted liability we were made to feel guilty, were chastised, or would suffer some other form of punishment. Consequently we learned two things. One was how to act in socially acceptable ways.  The other was to avoid blame because it is unpleasant.

Now, there are three basic ways to avoid blame.
The most obvious one is to blame someone or something else.  The second is to deny responsibility, and the third is to withhold "self - incriminating" information.  Although you might avoid blame using these methods, you pay a price of not fixing the problem, and you tend to lose the trust between yourself and others.

A culture of blame exists in any organization or business when we look to blame those who make mistakes, rather than looking at how to prevent those mistakes from occurring in future.  Statements like, "Don't tell the boss", are a sign of a Blame Culture as we try to avoid the consequences. However this is counter-productive to both efficiency and even risk-management, as “the boss” needs to know what is happening in order to make effective decisions.

An alternative to the blame response is to focus upon improving processes and systems within your business or organization.  This is an approach that has been embraced in Australia by the Aviation industry and Public Medicine. They refer to it as “Root Cause Analysis”, which explores mistakes in terms of how they can be avoided in future, rather than who made the mistake.  Here the person or persons at the center of the mistake and others who are affected by it, are regarded as valuable resources who have insight into how the mistake was made, and what processes might be put in place to avoid the same mistake from recurring.

In this way everyone becomes responsible for resolving past errors and has the opportunity to reduce future ones with their combined input. Thus everyone is valued, and the process strengthens the experience of teamwork.
[From my Towards Excellence column, in Caloundra City Council’s staff newsletter: Council Connections, April, 2006.]



The Persecutor - Victim - Rescuer Triangle at work.
Personal Empowerment:

Our work environment has a lot in common with our home family environment.
Both contain a group of individuals who have to interact and emotionally survive with each other.  Both contain a structure of power and authority that facilitate the roles we have with each other.

As individuals we have our own sense authority that helps us feel good about ourselves and enables us to get what we want.  Within our families, from a young age most of us have learned that if we feel unfairly treated by one member then we can go to another member to complain and enlist support. 

This can be a helpful strategy if we are seeking an objective opinion from others.  However more often than not this strategy is used to obtain allies against another person.  The dynamics of this relationship is that one person feels like they are a "Victim" of someone else who is seen to be acting like a "Persecutor", whilst the person offering support is the "Rescuer". 

In Psychology, this is known as the "Rescuer/Persecutor Victim Triangle".
The reason that this "triangle" is so common is because as "victims" we feel bad or at least uncomfortable, and by involving a third party as "rescuer", we reduce our emotional tension and tend to feel better about ourselves.
But at what cost?

Although we feel better with allies supporting us, we are in effect spreading the conflict amongst a greater number of people, which is more destructive to our family or workplace.  The irony is that by trying to empower ourselves with this kind of collusion, we ultimately disempower ourselves from finding a solution.

A recipe for greater Personal Empowerment at work in this situation is as follows:
For the "victim" to seek an objective perspective from someone they trust, without gaining support from that person.
For the "victim" to address their "persecutor" assertively.  This can be done in person or in writing by explaining how he/she feels without blaming.
For the "rescuer" to avoid trying to save the "victim", but instead to encourage the "victim" to empower him or herself by dealing directly with the "persecutor".
For the "victim" to explain their situation to someone higher in authority if the above actions are unsuccessful.

The aim is to develop your personal empowerment from within rather than externally.
[From my Towards Excellence column, in Caloundra City Council’s staff newsletter: Council Connections, June, 2006.]



Using Your Authority At Work:
Do You Empower Yourself Or Disempower Others?

We’re all ‘boss” in some way.
You may not realize it but we all have authority in our place of work, whether we are a boss or shelf-packer. The way you use, or avoid using your authority at work will either create or defy unity. This applies regardless of who you are at work, and regardless of what teamwork training you may have done.

“Authority” is a given permission to act in a certain way.
At a personal level we use our authority through the choices we make: Choices of how we behave, what we say, and how we say it.

For instance, if you think your boss could do something in a more helpful, more efficient way you have choices. You might complain to your co-workers, which undermines the authority of your boss but still doesn’t change the situation. Conversely, you could choose to empower yourself by approaching your boss in a respectful, helpful manner with positive suggestions and solutions. Your approach will also empower your boss if he or she is wise enough to recognize your support and courage in coming forward.

There is a retired CEO on the Range whose managerial style and use of authority I admire. His overall demeanor could be described as open, friendly, and empathic. He actively supported his employees at all levels by making a point of talking with them about how their work was progressing and offering guidance and direction where required. (He probably would have made a good counsellor.) Another way he used his authority was by communicating in a positive, strong and clear manner.

The net result was that employees didn’t fear him; on the contrary they trusted and liked him, and so, co-operated with him. This happy situation makes for easier Management and a more harmonious workplace culture: a win-win for both employees and Management. I know all of this because some years ago I interviewed all of his staff. They all commented upon how their CEO would talk to them and treat them as real people without using authority to define his status.

So with the right attitude, skills, and awareness, you can use your authority in a positive way to show clear direction, to create support for your co-workers, to obtain their co-operation and input.

If you would like to discuss anything raised in this series, feel free to contact me on the phone number below.
(Published in the Range Review. Nov 19, 2008. Maleny.)



Blaming Others - and the consequences to ourselves.

In the last edition of Towards Excellence we noted that most organizations have Blame Cultures hidden within them, a legacy from childhood when learning about being right or wrong concerning personal responsibility and social skills.  It feels uncomfortable to be blamed, which is why we often deny it regardless of our level of responsibility in the workplace.

One common way to avoid blame is to blame someone else.  A typical example of this existed within one of the Units of Caloundra Council not so long ago.  Two managers within the same unit had what is politely called a "personality clash."

Both managers were focused upon outcomes.  But individually one manager was focused more upon supporting staff, while the other manager was more focused upon a sense of authority.  This created problems between their respective departments as to how things should be done. The conflict was broadened and complicated when staff polarized their loyalty toward their respective managers.  So the discomfort between two managers had led to tensions and distrust between two departments.

When the two managers were asked to account for themselves, each one blamed the other.  And they did this, not just because they were trying to avoid blame, but also because it is easier to see how we have been wronged than it is to see how we have wronged others - a process common to all of us which has its roots in our need to feel good about ourselves.

As a result of counselling the managers began to look at their own contribution to the conflict. Amazing changes can happen when you do this.

By blaming someone else you don't find a solution, and ignore any influence you have to change the situation.  By recognizing your contribution within the process of conflict, you immediately become more empowered because you will see other options.  Finally, by accepting responsibility for your own actions you encourage cooperation and trust from others involved.
[From my Towards Excellence column, in Caloundra City Council’s staff newsletter: Council Connections, May, 2006.]



Are you experiencing “Burnout”?

"Burnout" is a form of emotional exhaustion.  You can experience Burnout in any aspect of your life but here we are interested in how it relates to work.

Burnout tends to develop gradually over time and is experienced as a lack of enthusiasm and motivation for your job. 

There are many contributing reasons for Burnout.  Essentially it can be caused by anything that frequently prevents you from doing your job effectively and that stops you from gaining job satisfaction.  Therefore regardless of the effort you put into your work, you are still unable to achieve your goals.

Factors that significantly contribute towards Burnout include:
Unrealistically high expectations of yourself in your job;
Poorly designed jobs where you can't see the results of your efforts;
Being frequently overruled by your supervisor/ manager;
Not being given the tools to do your job properly;
Frequent poor communication about your job requirements;
Feeling unsupported by Management;
Not being valued or acknowledged for your work;
Having your skills/ expertise frequently disregarded.

It might be interesting to turn the above list into a survey. All Council employees could tick any item that applies to them.

Anger often lies beneath Burnout.

This should not be surprising when you consider the above list of causes.  When you lack power and control over your job, anger and frustration are a common result.  One method of coping psychologically is to distance ourselves from the effort and importance we put into our work.  We may hear ourselves saying things like, "I don't give a stuff", or "Who gives a dam?" In doing so we distance ourselves from the emotional pain of our own lack of empowerment.  If this situation persists, another unconscious psychological protection mechanism may develop - we may become indifferent to our job.  Hence we have no motivation, and what we are experiencing is a form of depression: the result of our unrecognized and unexpressed anger.
[From my Towards Excellence column, in Caloundra City Council’s staff newsletter: Council Connections, March, 2006.]



Why some Teams are more effective than others.

To be more efficient, Organizations divide their work into sections or departments.  Very often the workers in these departments are asked to function as a Team. 

Sometimes they are given Team training to make them more effective, or bonding exercises to unite them.  Although very important, this kind of training falls far short of developing an effective Team that functions well.

Just putting a bunch of people together to do a job does not make a Team.
A Team contains individuals who have separate job roles that combine to achieve a common goal or outcome. 

So an important consideration for success is that each member of a Team needs to be suited to the job role that they are given.  Qualifications and relevant work experience is not enough to guarantee success in a particular role.  For example, the person who is excellent in their area of expertise may not be suited to the role of Manager.  This is because different personalities are best suited to different types of jobs regardless of work experience or qualifications. 

Psychological tools are available that can assess amongst other things:
- A job applicant’s suitability to a particular role;
- Suitability to an existing Team;
- Assess where conflict within an existing Team may be predicted and avoided;
- The training and development someone may need.

Studies of Team behavior have shown that up to 9 different roles exist within a Team, and that the right mixes of roles can make or break its success.  So next time you are selecting people for a Team or are part of a Team whose performance could be improved, you may want to give consideration to the Team structure and the right mix of personalities that make it function most effectively.
[From my Towards Excellence column, in Caloundra City Council’s staff newsletter: Council Connections, July, 2006.]



The down side of e-mails between colleagues.

E-mails often create subtle problems between people. 
They are commonly used to get basic points communicated, quickly and efficiently without wasting time in unnecessary conversation.

But did you know that when talking, around 72% of the communication is sent non-verbally? The non-verbal information helps us feel comfortable, for it conveys subtle clues about the other person’s attitude and intention towards us.

For example, someone may tell us something serious about our work in a voice-tone that sounds relaxed, and facial expressions that tell us we're not being criticized or chastised.  But information sent by e-mail can leave plenty of room for speculation about the attitude of the message sender.

I hear it often enough, people saying things like:
"Did you see the e-mail I got from so-and-so?"
"What do you think they meant by that!!?" or,
"Why couldn't they just come and tell me?  I'm only 20 meters away." Or,
“He/she didn’t have the courage to tell me in person!”

These statements tell me that tension has been created by people being more distant from each other both physically and psychologically. It reduces confidence, trust, and respect between people.  At its worst it tends to encourage a vicious cycle of paranoid interpretations resulting in anger and resentment.

E-mails are sometimes used to give unpopular directives.  So rather than face the other person, it's less confrontational to tell them via an e-mail.  However, this approach will appear cold and calculated to the recipient. Furthermore it reduces the ability of both parties to seek clarification, mutual understanding, or a compromise.

It took thousands of years for humans to develop the subtleties of their face-to-face communication. These subtleties have enabled us to reduce interpersonal conflict.  This benefit is lost when we connect and communicate with each other via machines.

So the message is: Reduce the amount of e-mails to your colleagues and create a more harmonious environment in your workplace by adopting the old-fashioned method of face-to-face communication.
[From my Towards Excellence column, in Caloundra City Council’s staff newsletter: Council Connections, March, 2006.]



Positive Examples of a Non-Blame Workplace Culture.

In the first column of this series it was noted that a culture of blame could undermine the efficiency and harmony of any workplace. The second column described how cultures of blame could be transformed, by viewing the workplace as a series of systems that can be improved when errors are made.

In this edition I’ll describe two local positive examples of a non-blame workplace culture in practice: one in the hinterland, the other on the coast.

A hinterland business that experiences stress on an almost daily basis was not suffering the usual side-affects of stress, which tend to be low morale, employee anxiety, and absenteeism. When all the employees were interviewed, they said two things that stood out. The first was that their boss always acknowledged work well done to the individuals and groups involved. The second was that when a mistake had been made, the boss focused calmly upon getting the problem fixed without blaming or chastising the employee involved. This approach has resulted in a more harmonious workplace where employees cope well with stress and don’t feel the need to hide mistakes.      

On the coast, two managers whose departments were mutually dependant upon each other had what is politely called a "personality clash."

Both managers worked conscientiously, and both were focused upon their job outcomes.  But individually one manager was reluctant to assert her authority and focused more upon supporting her staff, while the other manager was more focused upon a sense of authority.  This created problems between their respective departments regarding how things should be done. The conflict became more complicated when staff polarized their loyalty toward their respective managers. 

When the two managers explained their situation, each one blamed the other’s attitude and inadequate communication.  They did this, not because they were trying to avoid blame, but because they genuinely perceived their problems as being caused by the other.  As a result of some mentoring concerning interpersonal dynamics and a greater understanding of how a non-blame workplace operates, the two managers began to look at their own contribution to the conflict, after which their workplace became quite harmonious with less time wasted.

By recognizing your contribution within the process of conflict, you immediately become more empowered because you will see other options. This often requires an experienced facilitator. Finally, by accepting responsibility for your own actions you encourage cooperation and trust from those involved.
(Published in the Range Review. Nov. 2008. Maleny.)



Professional Development of Employer, Managers, and Supervisors.

Professional Development can be very effective using your day-to-day workplace issues to enhance the skills of Employers, Managers, and Supervisors.

I’m not talking here of being mentored on how to run a specific business. It’s more about what is required to “lubricate” your business to reduce its inevitable internal resistance.

All businesses have internal resistance that reduces efficiency. This results from the very ingredients that make up the business. These include its people, how authority is used, the existence or lack of defined procedures, how conflict is handled, unclear communication, and the congruency of goals within different levels of the business, just to name some of them.

Professional development in businesses and organisations is most commonly undertaken outside of the work environment with blocks of external training.
It is often perceived as more convenient to acquire staff management skills, problem solving skills, and interpersonal skills, away from the distractions of the workplace.

However my experience of “in-house” Professional Development with Caloundra Council revealed that it is both powerful and engaging when applied to resolving "live problems" in the workplace. Other advantages include a saving of travelling time and money for all staff involved, and lower training overheads. 

However, by far the most dynamic benefit is the ability to address and resolve current workplace concerns. As an additional bonus, in-house training can be used to enhance a team atmosphere with a better understanding of each other's roles, plus resolving interpersonal and communication issues. 

The main challenge for small to medium businesses is to allocate the time for self- improvement. The situation is a bit like a truck driver or taxi driver not wanting to take their vehicle off the road for maintenance because of losing income. Yet if they don’t make the time for it, their vehicles wont run as efficiently and will eventually break down in some way. The same reasoning can be applied to businesses.

In-house Professional Development tends to increase trust and harmony, not because it eradicates problems, but because it provides a structure, a forum, and a facilitator to collaborate with problems and uncertainties when they arise.  Research on international best practice indicates that a collaborative approach gives employers, managers, and employees mutual support, which again increases job satisfaction, workplace harmony, and tends to reduce medium to long-term stress.
(Published in the Range Review, Dec. 2008. Maleny.)



Self Protection And Sexual Harassment In The Workplace.

Sexual harassment in the workplace raises its head from time to time. One of the reasons for this is due to the different perceptions that people have about the nature of sexual harassment. Another is because the slide toward inappropriate behaviour may be gradual, and unclear to either or both parties involved.

Your awareness of sexual harassment could be compared to that of breaking the speed limit when driving. If you’re doing 100km in a 60km zone you know you’re speeding, but if you’re doing 63km you may not notice and other people may not notice either. To make things more difficult, one person may not consider 63km to be speeding yet someone else might.

So let’s try to get some clarity on the subject.
Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal, or implied. It can be implied through leering looks, suggestive gestures, by cornering someone in a room, and sexual innuendoes. It could even be unintentional as is the case when someone is being unwittingly and inappropriately crass.

It is our perceptions that dictate what we believe to be true.
What is acceptable to some people in a situation may not be acceptable to others. For example, you may want to be supportive of someone in distress. If you cross the personal boundary of touching or hugging or making intimate comments to that person, you run two risks. One is for your actions to be misinterpreted, the other is to mislead yourself about what you or the other person wants.

The potential for sexual harassment problems increase when we socialize with workmates of the opposite sex outside of work. Our personal boundaries are more easily blurred between what is acceptable at work and what is acceptable outside of work.

You might ask yourself: What can I do to protect myself from being the persecutor or victim of sexual harassment?

To avoid being a persecutor – keep awareness and the respect of others in your mind. Be mindful of how situations can be interpreted by other people. If you have any doubts about how your actions could be interpreted, ask relevant others or trusted co-workers. Seek advice from your Human Resources department.

To avoid being a victim – tell people when you are uncomfortable with their words or behaviour towards you. If that is too hard for some reason, ask a trusted co-worker or your Human Resources department for advice. Before a problem escalates, be responsible for the outcomes you want and don’t be passive.

A comfortable relationship with your co-workers is one of the key things that create excellence in the workplace. It encourages the sharing of useful information, enables mutual support, and is essential for the creation of effective teamwork.
[From my Towards Excellence column, in Caloundra City Council’s staff newsletter: Council Connections, September, 2006.]


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