Workplace Training for Respect, Fairness & Empathy

Respect at Work


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Internal reporting? Is it safe?

Posted on 21 May, 2019 at 8:50

 Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I met a young man named Jack Murray from Resolve Advisors, at the No More Harm conference I attended a couple of months ago. Jack and his team are working on a platform called Elker – Elker is being developed as a potential answer to the issue of feeling safe and protected when you want to speak openly and honestly about issues in a workplace. Jack’s team have recognised that a system needs to support, protect and reflect the needs of people and are working on the idea that people feel they can speak safely when they are anonymous.

I’m not great with tech but Elker got me interested – we need new and progressive thinking in this space and maybe this is a start. To paraphrase Jack; this is a program that can run through a workplace, giving everyone the option of encrypted and anonymous reporting. An individual can then choose from a number of options as to who they want their complaint to go to, ensuring that the right person is connected to the right issue.

Perhaps Jack’s presentation interested me so much because of the constant number of conversations I have had with participants telling me that they don’t trust the reporting process in their workplace. People tell me that they don’t fill out paper culture surveys because they are worried that their handwriting might be recognised. In the organisations that have moved to electronic surveys, I’m told that people give false answers in fear that their log-in details will give their identity away. And we’ve all heard the stories of issues and complaints that are never raised.

Another issue with complaints (one that I doubt Elker can fix), is the issue of complaints versus disclosures. The nightmare of Managers and People & Culture teams is the legal mind field of ensuring compliance to the legal duty of care for the organisation. If staff are told that complaints must be formal, yet they are afraid of the potential consequences of a formal complaint; is it any surprise that they don’t bother?

I don’t believe that anonymous reporting will fix all the internal problems in an organisation. The biggest problem I can see is the culture of fear. Culture surveys can be the perfect tool for those in power to gain insight to the needs and strengths of their greatest assets, but only if responses are honest. A management team that makes culture a priority has their eyes open, are inclusive and take positive actions regardless of how they hear the information.

Respect at Work can help you to prioritise your workplace culture and break down cultures of fear.

*Jack mentioned that Elker is in the trial stage of development and would love to hear from organisations that would like to give it a go. [email protected]


Posted on 30 April, 2019 at 3:45

 Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In my last blog I mentioned the emotion shame, I would like to explore that a little further...

Inappropriate workplace behaviours (including bullying) have the capacity to evoke many different emotional responses. Shame is one, others may be; embarrassment, disbelief, humiliation, guilt, fear and/or anger, amongst others.

Targets of inappropriate behaviours may feel shame for different reasons; shame that it is happening to them, shame that they can’t ignore it, shame that they aren’t standing up to the perpetrator/s, shame that it is affecting their work / life / sleep. When someone is subjected to bullying type behaviours, the humiliation, power imbalance and often unfounded criticisms erode at their self-confidence and they may start to feel deserving (and ashamed) of the behaviours they are subjected to. Sometimes a target will start to live down to the expectations of the perpetrators, thus further damaging their self-esteem and again increasing feelings of shame.

Bystanders, who see others treated badly and don’t act, may experience shame. Admitting that shame to others then feels too emotional, so blinkers come down, ears are closed, and another potential avenue of support and intervention is shut down.

Shame is also experienced by the perpetrators (or alleged perpetrators) of inappropriate behaviours. Perpetrators are labelled as ‘bullies’ and then in comes the practice of public ridicule or ‘bully shaming’. Unfortunately, this labelling, shaming and demonising of people may not prevent inappropriate behaviours. Rather, the emotions of shame and guilt may cause the perpetrator to fight for their defence instead of owning and stopping the problem behaviours.

There are no winners in workplace conflict.  Accepting and understanding that we are all susceptible to emotions such as shame is a start to responding to these issues. Just like a fight or flight response, the response to shame is often to shut-down or attack, this is not helpful. To feel shame is not shameful, in fact the courage and vulnerability of admitting shame makes us brave and strong.  

Let’s respect not only what each of us say and do, let’s also respect what we feel.

Brene Brown has a couple of excellent TED talks about shame and vulnerability, have a listen here;

Kindness is free! and so is Respect!

Posted on 1 April, 2019 at 19:45

Photo by James Hammond on Unsplash

Freshly inspired from the 20 presentations I sat in on (and the many more that I wanted to) at the No More Harm Conference https/ last week, I thought I might share some quotes from my 29 pages of scribbled notes.

Here they are;

'Be willing, take responsibility, be vulnerable'
'Repair harm, defend against shame'
'Resilience = grit and patience'
'Good leaders create a circle of safety'
 - Margaret Thorsborne, Margaret Thorsborne and Associates

'There are more men named Andrew heading up companies in the ASX top 100 than there are women'
'The importance of being free and able and empowered'
 - Hanna Wandel, Country to Canberra

'Build trust, name elephants, have courageous conversations'
'Kindness is free'
'Put people at the centre of everything we do'
 - Ainsley Barahona Santos & Lenka Bilik, icare

'When there is deep seated conflict, no amount of forcing people to play games will work'
'Trust and respect is not an on/off switch'
'Step into vulnerability'
'Courage and vulnerability are contagious'
 - Ruth Levy, Ruth Levy Consulting

'You’ve got to be courageous to walk into conflict and if you’re going to do that you have to be prepared to change'
 - Nicole Gibson, The Rouge & Rouge Foundation

'Interrupt our emotional responses'
'Interrupt their emotional responses'
'Become vulnerable and then curious, noticing and reflecting'
 - Paul Zappa, NIRODAH

'Cultural competence is not Harmony Day – It’s when, just like Christmas decorations aren’t questioned, neither are other cultural decorations'
 - Nareen Young, University of Technology Sydney

I found my 2 days to be extremely valuable – not because I necessarily experienced any lightbulb moments but because of the opportunity to revisit so many aspects in this space; to meet and hear from many passionate people doing great work and creating positive change.

Restorative Justice was a constant theme and the emotions of shame and vulnerability were also mentioned by several presenters. Issues of safe reporting and the frustrations and strategies to develop and support safe spaces for all, gave us lots to think and talk about.

No, instances of bullying and cyber bullying haven’t decreased but statistically they haven’t increased either. No, I didn’t hear any miracle strategies, but I did notice a shift in the focus, there was no focus on definitions, motivations, or on Band-aids but rather on positive actions to heal and protect.

Kindness is free! and so is Respect!

No More Harm Conference

Posted on 18 March, 2019 at 18:45

Last Friday was National Day of Action against Bullying & Violence, such an important day, not just for Australian school kids but for everyone; https/ Next week, staying within the theme I will be attending the No More Harm Conference https/ on the Gold Coast. I have attended a couple of these conferences in the past so I’m excited.

The program is jam packed and I can’t decide if I’m more excited about Teams in Turmoil: Improving Intra-Team Respect as the Antidote, Attention Please! Will the Bystander Please Stand Up, The Myth of the Bully Free Workplace or, Blaming the Victim and Hiding the Harm – Changing the Culture of Complaints.

As it’s been a few years since my last conference, what I am hoping for the most is to hear progressive advice and opinions. Strategies and theories about workplace bullying seemed to fall into a static loop for a while and I am looking forward to connecting with / and learning from, some fresh, innovative thinkers in this space.

If you’re a last-minute planner and would like to attend the conference, use the code ROZ19 to register at the early bird discount price.

Do you add or subtract the energy from the room?

Posted on 26 February, 2019 at 18:00

 Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay

I just shared a FaceBook post about kind and happy people that particularly resonated with me on a personal and professional level.

Firstly, the personal perspective.. I have recently had some happy events in my life that were worth sharing by phone and on social media, now I don't think I'm a huge sharer but sometimes social media is just the platform to spread news quickly and easily.  I was surprised and flattered by the beautiful comments and responses to my news, they made my heart smile.  But I wonder how much energy would I had given to a less than positive response?  Could 1 negative response cancel 100 positive ones?  I can think of other instances in my life when rather than be uplifted by overwelming positivity I have lost sleep over the single negative - what a waste of energy.

The professional interaction I am thinking of was during a training session yesterday.  I was talking to some managers about time spent managing staff and how 1 or 2 non-respectful, gossipy, negative employees can take hours of their time.  While in the background the productive, respectful employees do a great job just getting on with their work.  The problem is that the toxic employees take so much time and energy that sometimes the managers don't get around to acknowledging the employees that keep the business flowing.  The balance is wrong!  

When we feel valued and appreciated (and of course respected) we bring more of ourselves to our work, a simple show of acknowledgement can build the energy of an individual which then carries on through the team.

The answer, unfortunately, is not to spend less time on the problems - a head in the sand approach never works!  Perhaps the answer is to keep noticing and acknowledging the good, it doesn't matter how small the acknowledgement as long as you keep adding to the energy.  Give people enough support, respect and kindness that they can see past the small energy sapping negatives.

Respect at Work can help :) 

Water is to goldfish as culture is to ..?

Posted on 30 January, 2019 at 21:00

No, this blog is not about your memory

Imagine you are a goldfish swimming around in your tank of water. Do you think you are aware of the water?  Or is it just there?

What if you suddenly lost the water?  Would it become more important?

Culture to us might be likened to water for a goldfish.

Do you take parts of your culture for granted?

I don’t usually spend a lot of time thinking about my cultural self until something happens to trigger a conscious thought or connection. Like the goldfish, it sometimes takes the loss of something important for me to appreciate (or even notice) what is now missing.

If faced with the loss of country, an integral family member or even a job, the connection of that lost part of self to our identity can be consuming.

Why does this matter?

Our cultural self helps to define our identity. Who I am is influenced by my upbringing, my family, life experiences, education, relationships, work experiences, trauma, tragedy, successes and failures.

This cultural self or identity then impacts my perspectives, my opinions and my behaviours. Yes, I have some control over these things — IF I am aware of them.

If (unlike the goldfish) we take the time to reflect on who we are and acknowledge our cultural influences this awareness will help us to question our perspectives and potentially our unconscious bias.

No, we are not all the same, we are all unique individuals with our own personal history and our cultural selves continue to develop our whole lives.

My cultural self may hold unconscious bias. By becoming conscious of my identity, I can become conscious of bias and shift any biased perspectives thus avoiding any potential disrespectful and/or discriminatory behaviour.

Something to ponder…

Goodbye 2018, hello 2019

Posted on 3 January, 2019 at 0:25

I delivered a LOT of training sessions in the last couple of months of 2018 and to be honest there were a couple that left me feeling exhausted. To be fair I think the participants in question were busy, frustrated employees that really didn't see any benefit to spending their valuable time in a training room. it's not always easy to sell the benefits of training to busy employees.

The people that push my buttons are the few that roll their eyes and talk while others are contributing, strive to suck the energy out of the room, don't refill the empty kettle for the next person and then loudly proclaim "I don't need to be here, I'm already respectful". Respectful to whom I often wonder. I keep my eye on these participants, I listen extra hard when they speak, and I put extra effort to identifying with their frustrations. The gold for me, is when there is a point where something resonates – they start to take notice, sit a little straighter and join in. Unfortunately, golden moments aren't guaranteed, the occasional participant spends the whole session (and potentially the whole day/week/month) feeling resentful and miserable. This is when I wonder why? I wonder what has led them to such resistance? and I try to have more compassion.

While 'debriefing' at home after one of these sessions, my wife reminded me 'this is why you do what you do' – she was right. The sessions that I deliver to rooms full of caring, respectful individuals make my job easy. It's the sessions with the resistant, unhappy participants that keep me constantly on my toes that remind me why Respect at Work exists. One of the best compliments I have received through Respect at Work was from an initially unhappy participant who came up to me after the session and said, 'I didn't want to be here, I thought this would be a waste of my time but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it's given me lots to think about'.

Respect at Work training makes sense and provides the foundation for a great workplace. A respectful, inclusive and positive culture is one where all staff feel comfortable, connected and supported. When staff feel safe, they bring their whole selves to work, they are free to be innovative, express their opinions and even disagree because of the high level of trust and connection in the culture.

So goodbye 2018, I'm looking forward to many more golden moments in 2019 


Posted on 26 November, 2018 at 17:05

Image by Pixabay

When talking to training participants I often ask, 'who gossips at work?', about half of the room usually put up their hands and there are cries of 'doesn't everyone?’, and 'you can't help it, it's normal’.

The Wikipedia definition of gossip is: 'Gossip is idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others; the act is also known as dishing or tatting'. My question at this point is how is gossip EVER useful or necessary?

This quote from Lieutenant General David Morrison; 'The standard you walk past is the standard you accept', is something for us all to keep in mind. If I accept gossip about someone else, am I essentially giving my approval for gossip to be said about me and/or often used against me?

The perfect storm for problems with workplace relationships starts with: high job demands, limited job control, organisational change and lack or resources – these are all factors for most workplaces at some time. It is the people in the workplace that then have the potential to escalate that stormy workplace climate from a rainstorm to a hurricane. Regardless of whether those involved in workplace gossip believe it is 'harmless fun' or if they mean it to be malicious, a culture of gossip is not a culture of trust and safety, and EVERYONE in the workplace is entitled to a safe environment. 

People can choose to engage in gossip and other harmful behaviours or they can choose to engage in respect. One of our most basic human needs is the need for respect and there is no respect in gossip. We're all responsible for our workplace culture; I expect respect from my colleagues and they should expect it from me.

Respect at Work facilitates discussions about respectful workplace behaviours, please get in touch if we can be of assistance for your workplace.

Respect at Work is 1 year old

Posted on 1 November, 2018 at 0:00

November is birthday month for Respect at Work :) and what an amazing, whirlwind first year it has been.
After leaving Equal Opportunity Tasmania in 2017 and a well-earned break, I knew that I still had a message to deliver and that there were so many workplaces that needed help, I just had to decide what that might look like.  My focus and business plan is based on what I want in a workplace: respect, fairness and empathy, so the name Respect at Work just made sense!

Starting a business has been everything I expected it to be — exciting, terrifying, exhilarating and exhausting, but here we are a year later, and I love my work.
Here are some of my observations from year 1:
  • A simple, honest product and a good reputation are worth gold
  • 99% of people genuinely want to resolve workplace problems, unfortunately many of them just don't know how
  • Too many people know what a toxic workplace feels like, either first hand or as a bystander
  • Gossip is still one of the most common contributors to a toxic culture
  • Everyone from CEOs to trainees need reminding about respectful workplace cultures
  • Good communication is just as crucial as always and often just as neglected
  • Everyone wants to just feel safe and respected at work
  • Don't do invoices when tired :roll: 
  • BAS forms aren't as hard as they look 8)
Thank you to everyone for your continued support :)

Mentally Healthy Workplaces

Posted on 9 October, 2018 at 13:00

Today is World Mental Health Day, a day of awareness about mental health

Respect at Work training sessions start with a fairly frank recollection of the number of people that, over the years, have told me they would rather drive into a tree than go to work; the number of people that have told me they intend to suicide, and of the people I know of that have suicided as a result (directly or indirectly) of the behaviours they were exposed to within their workplaces.  It's a sobering moment in training sessions that are simply about 'how to be respectful and fair'.  

I struggle to understand how little regard some workers have for others — compassion really shouldn't be difficult.  Awareness of workplace safety in Australia is pretty good but unfortunately not everyone is aware that safety includes psychological safety.  Our duty of care to each other includes a duty of care to each other's mental health.  We need workplace environments that are safe for people to be open and vulnerable (as, when and if they need to), where it is safe for mental health to be discussed and where it's safe to have open and respectful conversations.

I've just made a mental health promise as part of World Mental Health Day here Make your own promise here and be part of a world-wide movement to improve mental wellbeing in our community. #MentalHealthPromise