For project managers, keeping a tight-knit team focused on the tasks at hand and pulling in the same direction is basically their job description. One thing that can completely destroy this team unity, however, is negative workplace behavior. This can range from making team members mildly uncomfortable to harassment and bullying, so for a start it’s good to recognize that negative workplace behavior can encompass many things, such as:
- Fostering an environment which is intimidating or exclusionary.
- Interference with or unjustified comments about a colleague’s work.
- Comments, jokes or innuendo about someone’s appearance; use of slurs or exclusionary jokes.
- Hostile or intimidating actions, including touching a colleague without consent.
- Linking professional advancement to romantic activity, or bullying or deliberately trying to upset someone’s feelings
Not only does poor workplace behavior have the potential to split your team, it also holds significant risks for lawsuits and company losses. One of the many pieces of information about the levels of harassment in workplaces to be highlighted by the #MeToo movement has been how often organizations have had to bail out harassers with multimillion-dollar settlements. For every stakeholder, poor workplace behavior results in a negative, so as a PM it’s important to know how to deal with it.
How to deal with negative workplace behavior
To protect your team and to make sure negative behavior does not disrupt your project, here are some ways to make sure you are dealing with it effectively.
- Create a Culture Against Harassment
Examples of corporate culture are taken from the top and it is vital for all members of your team to know that harassment, bullying and all negative behavior will not be tolerated. Create a behavior charter that all members have to sign up to, as well as signaling your intent it will also provide an easy reference document for dealing with future situations.
- Be Proactive
Being a project manager means being a leader and when it comes to bad behavior, that’s exactly what you will have to do. Sitting back and hoping things will change or not acting when presented with a complaint will only show that you are not fully behind the efforts to tackle bad behavior.
- Listen Fully
When presented with a complaint, don’t rush to judgement and do make sure to listen fully to the details you are given. HR expert, Lotus Yon, also recommends thanking the complainant for coming forward, no matter the outcome of the case, as it is never an easy thing to do in the first place.
- Get HR Involved (and Legal if necessary)
While it may concern your team, it is also the professional responsibility of the HR department, so it always makes sense to bring in an objective professional to help ascertain the situation. If necessary, legal counsel may also need to be sought. If your organization doesn’t have these departments then seek the advice and support of a mentor or more senior executive.
- Gather and Document All Evidence
Along with the statement of the initial complainant it is also important to talk with the alleged perpetrator and witnesses if there were any. Bring together and write down as much evidence as possible. Using a single, cloud-based filing system, like Clarizen, can also be helpful for collating information relevant to the case.
- Keep the Team Working
Make it very clear that everything is confidential and that the penalty for retaliation or seeking to interfere in the case will be stern. Ensure that the team is confident that you are handling the situation sensitively and thoroughly and that they can be supportive of whatever outcome you reach.