How To Speak Out Against Disrespect In The Workplace

How To Speak Out Against Disrespect In The Workplace

Are the suggested actions in this infographic from Our Watch in this infographic (‘When you see disrespect towards women – #DoSomething’) the same for when we see disrespect for men in the workplace?

Do SOmething

Disrespectful behaviour towards men or women in the workplace is not acceptable. Putting these passive strategies into practice is certainly better than avoiding sexism (and other inappropriate behaviours)  and shuffling around the issue. But what would these particular particular actions achieve? At best, the perpetrator and other bystanders may take notice. At the least, the bystander who rolled their eyes will feel better for acting out, believing they have adequately demonstrated their disapproval. Sadly this self interpretation from the bystander is usually inaccurate.

Since when have passive strategies had a prompt and significant effect on another person or situation?

The standard you walk past and ignore is the standard you accept. The standard you walk past and passively react to is still the standard you accept because your actions have not been noticeable enough to send a clear message to others.

If you decide you don’t agree with what is happening, that you do not condone the behaviour you are witnessing, how are you going to speak up at that moment in a way that makes your views clearly known? And how can bystanders safely speak out to be part of a movement that will positively impact on the workplace culture?

The best way to constructively address disrespectful behaviour is to follow the sequence of ‘Showing Disapproval, Supporting The Victim and Speaking Out’. However, you need to take an assertive approach that directly impacts the perpetrator and is instantly noticeable by the victim and other bystanders. Rolling your eyes and shaking your head are not constructive, appropriate responses, nor is changing the topic or referring to a generalised statement.

Instead, call out the perpetrator by naming the behaviour. This is the most direct and appropriate response, and being direct can still be respectful. For example, you might say: “I found that comment to be sexist and inappropriate for our workplace”.

Of course, whole staff training is required to ensure there is a common understanding of what is considered respectful and appropriate workplace behaviour. Training content should also demonstrate to  employees:

  • how to respectfully ‘call out’ any inappropriate behaviour they are either subjected to or witness;
  • the only response from the perpetrator that is acceptable in a workplace. Whether the perpetrator  agrees or not with the ‘call out’ that their behaviour is inappropriate, there is a clear expectation that they accept the feedback being provided and cease that behaviour (rather than object and/or continue with the same or other inappropriate comments/behaviours);
  • that it is everyone’s responsibility (individually and collectively) to contribute to the creation and maintenance of a workplace culture that is respectful, professional and values driven; and
  • the requirement that every staff member must comply with workplace policies, abiding by behavioural policies (like a Code of Conduct, Values Statement, Anti-Discrimination and Prevention of Bullying and Harassment) and, when necessary  following the grievance or complaints handling policy/process.

A change in workplace culture that puts a stop to workplace bullying, sexism and harassment will only happen when staff make a commitment to permitting and promoting only appropriate, acceptable workplace behaviours.

Contact Workplace Harmony Solutions to discuss how we can tailor a culture-change package to the needs of your workplace.

About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.