The standard you walk past…

The standard you walk past…

Recently I posted a comment in LinkedIn about a particular incident in which a young CFA volunteer was subjected to physical assault by other CFA volunteers in the presence of so called ‘team members’ who witnessed the assault and appeared unperturbed and did not intervene.

My LinkedIn comment was: “What does it say when this behaviour still exists and when the victim doesn't want to make a formal complaint? Feeling really saddened by it all and very motivated to continue to work for cultural change in orgs.” I should have added to my LinkedIn post, “What does it say when bystanders accept such incidents as normalised behaviour?”

Ben Walker, a Senior IR/HR Advisor for Master Builders Tasmania, posted his personal opinion/comment:

"If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it. The standard you walk past…”

The quote, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept” became well known after 2016 Australian of the Year David Morrison used it as part of his campaign to champion gender equality in the army. Morrison has stated publicly that he first heard this phrase from the former Chief of Defence, General David J. Hurley (former senior officer in the Australian Army and the 38th and current Governor of New South Wales).

My response to Ben’s comment was to post the following on LinkedIn:

“It seems to me that in organisations and workplaces, we need to seek permission from our cohort to use our moral courage - when in fact it is our right to choose to use it and in many cases our responsibility to. Why is there a void in the leadership arena which encourages (both overtly and covertly) the constructive expression of moral courage? When we allow others to be degraded, we are actually degrading ourselves by implicitly stating that this is the standard we are prepared to accept - we are lowering our own standard to that of the person exhibiting the inappropriate behaviour. Are we comfortable with that? If we are not, what do we choose to do about that?”

Today I encourage any reader to print out this article and take it to their next team meeting – to use it as a catalyst to speak up about a worker’s rights:

  • to raise their voice and be heard without fear of victimisation;
  • to appropriately express what their moral courage is telling them is right;
  • to articulate the negative impacts poor behaviour has on individuals, teams and businesses; and
  • to garner support and gain an explicit agreement that everyone will consistently seek to summon the courage to claim  and use their right to respectfully ‘call out’ inappropriate workplace behaviours as they are witnessed.
If you are a leader, how can you create the space in a team meeting or training/professional development session for a team discussion in which all team members can safely contribute to the resetting of reasonable behavioural expectations with the purpose of achieving and maintaining a respectful workplace culture? If people behaved appropriately in workplaces, there would only be positive things to talk out about and I am sure this would be greatly encouraged! So punishing people for talking out, or creating fear about talking out, implies people with power know that inappropriate behaviours or actions are occurring within the space they are responsible for.

The Standard You Walk Past Is The Standard You Accept. It’s not just up to victims of bullying and harassment in the workplace to speak out. Coworkers have a responsibility to speak out also. Anyone who doesn’t is a part of the problem.

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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.