Out with the old, and in with the new!
How Respectful Workplace Policies are Replacing Antiquated Workplace Conduct Policies.
Compliance with federal, state, and municipal workplace regulations is an unavoidable challenge of doing business, and the ways business owners choose to apply and communicate these mandatory policies continue to evolve.
It’s incumbent on business owners to adapt to current thinking wherever possible within their business model. Forward thinking not only protects the legal integrity of a workplace, but also can empower company culture to become your most effective retention and recruitment tool.
Reviewing Current Policies
Analyze your current polices and culture for the warning signs of outdated policies, such as:
- A focus on results at any cost
- Policies written in black and white, with no room for flexibility
- Rules for the sake of having rules
The policies reflect a business culture that is dangerously out of step with current thinking and best practices. They are based on the belief that employees must be controlled.
The Difference is in the Details
Title VII compliance requires a workplace where employees are treated with respect and dignity, but Workplace Conduct and Respectful Treatment policies try to attain that goal with different methods.
Workplace Conduct policies focus on what employees shouldn’t do.
- Don’t use threatening or demeaning language
- Don’t use racial, ethnic, or gender slurs
- Don’t make actual or threaten physical conduct
- Don’t spread rumor or gossip
Anti-Harassment (“Don’t harass!”) and Discrimination (“Don’t discriminate!”) policies are the most common examples of Workplace Conduct policies and their focus on controlling and banning behavior.
Respectful Treatment policies, on the other hand, are designed to educate, protect, and motivate. These policies move far beyond the Anti-Harassment and Discrimination policies that preceded them, because they promote an overall company culture of fairness, teamwork, and respect.
Respectful Treatment policies require that employees:
- Treat all co-workers with respect, civility, and courtesy
- Engage openly and collaboratively with co-workers, recognizing and embracing individual differences
- Abide by rules, regulations, and policies; address inter-personal issues through appropriate channels
- Commit to a culture where colleagues cooperate to achieve best possible business outcomes
We’re Not ‘All The Same’
There was a time when treating all employees exactly the same was considered Management 101, the ultimate way to protect a company from claims of discrimination or mistreatment. This management philosophy was, essentially, the genesis of inflexible Workplace Conduct policies.
But it’s now understood that Equal Treatment is not always Fair Treatment, as demonstrated by federal and state court rulings throughout the country. Every human being in your workplace is unique, facing his or her unique set of challenges and circumstances.
Small businesses can no longer find safety in black and white thinking.
A Respect Revolution
Respectful Treatment policies do more than just comply with federal and state workplace regulations. They also create and enforce a type of company culture that’s been shown to engaged the employee population – something that’s great for business, because an engaged employee is a productive one.
When updating your internal policies:
- Create job descriptions that are up-to-date and clearly tied to performance goals. Show employees how they can succeed and how that success is tied to Respectful Treatment, teamwork, and overall company goals.
- Educate employees on how our differences enrich the workplace and make life interesting.
- Lead by example. Treating co-workers with respect is not an effective policy unless it’s also engrained as a way of doing business.
- Metrics matter, but not more than an employee’s overall contributions to the team or the company. If you reward employees who bully their way to the top or demean their co-workers, these are exactly the behaviors you will encourage…and then you’ll be left to deal with the potential legal fallout.
- Pay fairly. Below-market salaries and/or pay discrepancies within teams – ones that cannot be understood by differences in contributions – will chip away at feelings of being valued and respected.
- Consider adding flexibility where possible for the type of industry you work within. Does everyone have to report to work at 8 a.m.? Perhaps add some flexibility to accommodate personal obligations, medical conditions, and even basic traffic hassles as a way to modernize and humanize internal policies.
Workplace Conduct policies are becoming a product of the past. Instead, small businesses must embrace the transition to Respectful Treatment policies, to both legally protect their business and to protect the rights and well-being of their employees.