to address harassment, bullying and discrimination

 with Stephen Hammond

Tip #39 — ENCOURAGE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS STANDS

It's tough to stand up to someone at work and it's even tougher when it's someone in a position more senior than you. When you add to that a person with considerably more clout or very high up the ladder, you may feel like David up against Goliath.

 

So what do you do when someone makes racist, sexist, homophobic or just plain inappropriate comments? What do you do when it's from a distinguished person? What do you do when you're caught off guard?

 

First, don't worry about being caught off guard. If words don't come to you immediately, collect your thoughts and find a way to say them later. If, however, someone else speaks up on the spot, support that person. You know what it took to say something.

 

Don't be afraid to return to the issue; it's never too late, even if what you wanted to say at the time comes to you in the middle of a meeting or a workplace gathering. If it's weighing on your mind, it's likely weighing on the minds of others.

 

Stick to the issue, and if the perpetrator wants to sidetrack by pointing out the bad habits of others, insist on sticking to this person's words that caused you to speak up.  Whatever you do, don't try to soft-pedal a situation when strong words are warranted. Of course there's no need to lambaste a person who made an outrageous comment, but it's really important  the person knows your workplace won't tolerate such comments.

 

Be prepared to stand alone. Because most employees are conflict averse, you may find others unwilling to join you. You'll have to decide if it's worth it for you.

 

SUPERVISORY SUGGESTIONS:

1) Take on simple comments - before they become complex. Since most people who make inappropriate comments never or rarely get called on their actions, it's amazing what is accomplished just by speaking up in a very simple way. Don't wait for something to get bigger and therefore more difficult to handle.

 

2) Ask for assistance - It will be a sign of strength. Two heads and minds are much better than one.

 

3) Work on gradual change - if you need to. Sometimes it takes a while to get behavioural change. Don't give up. If it's right, it's right and in the long run you should win over most people. However, do keep in mind that if there is a violation of someone's rights and it takes a while to correct, the law applies today...not when you make the gradual change. Yet progress sometimes takes a while.

This is TIP #39 of 52 WEEKLY TIPS for managers and supervisors. 
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