ADVOCATE COLUMN 4th WEEK MARCH 2018
The international Me Too Movement and the accompanying revelations of sexual harassment in some high profile New Zealand’s companies highlights the fact that while it seems most of us agree this should not happen, it does happen and everyone within the business community has a responsibility to make our work environments as safe and inclusive as possible. While this is underpinned by workplace health and safety and the business owners regulatory or statutory obligations, it needs to be more than just a few bullet points in a business plan or a policy sitting on a book shelf in the office.
Beyond the common courtesy of treating each other with respect, it is important for so many other reasons. This kind of behaviour affects staff morale, impacts on workers health, leads to increased staff turnover, can impact on productivity and in some cases may bring about substantial financial costs to the business that does not address it in an appropriate manner. Then there are the external impacts, particularly the damage that it can do to a business or organisations reputation. This can lead to customers, suppliers or stakeholders going elsewhere or actively disassociating themselves for the fear of damaging their own hard earnt reputations.
With the matter now at the forefront of both traditional and social media outlets, it provides an ideal opportunity for Northland businesses to examine just what their workplace culture is really like, are they truly doing all they can do to provide a safe workplace and if they are falling short then what are they going to do about it. I think sometimes it may be easy for the business owner to think everything is going all right. I know from the experience of dealing with businesses involved in the Westpac Northland Business Excellence Awards that when they consult with their workers, they are often surprised to find that there is a disconnect between what the owner thinks is happening and what their workers are actually doing or experiencing across a whole range of workplace issues.
It may well be that the business owner, particularly one with a small workforce may not have the internal capability to ensure that they are in fact doing things the right way. The starting point, other than bringing external expertise may be to ensure that they have created a genuine culture where everyone is respected and everyone feels safe to raise their concerns.