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Creating a safe and secure workplace environment using a culture of openness
Nurturing in-house talent with a well-defined leadership development program makes employees feel more connected to the business

Companies that have developed a culture of openness can provide and receive feedback at all levels

The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is an old Japanese saying that encourages an unspoken rule of conformity combined with an authoritarian hierarchical structure. Brent O’Bryan, SPHR at AlliedBarton Security Services, explains that a winning formula for both the organisation and an individual is a culture actively exhibiting healthy behaviours and practices, combined with a zero-tolerance policy for any inappropriate or troubling behaviours. 

Many metropolitan cities wrestle with significant violence on the streets. In such cities, law enforcement and the state attorney’s offices face the headwind of a “stop snitching” culture. When criminals and bullies are accepted as commonplace and have greater influence than the law, their actions will not be reported, and the perpetrators themselves will ultimately not be held accountable for their actions. An anti-snitching philosophy also infiltrates many workplaces as criminals, or at least those who have yet to be found guilty, and bullies become the employees sitting in the next cubicle or office. Or worse, they become the boss. 

Aligning organisational culture with policy

People who feel they are in a safe and secure environment are capable of achieving great things

If individuals see something but say nothing, or if organisations discourage, intentionally or otherwise, the active reporting of concerning actions and behaviours, chances of violence in the workplace increase. So, what can an organisations do to transform from a “see something, say nothing” culture to a “see something, say something” culture? Organisational culture, policy and practices need to be objectively evaluated, and if necessary, changed. The culture of an organisation will always trump policy when the two are not aligned. And, culture is often best defined by the accepted behaviours and practices in an organisation. While the printed or preached culture may be a positive one, if the reality of what is practised every day is not, senior leadership needs to take steps to make the desired culture a reality.

Driving an organisational culture change

The following are some areas that business leaders in human resources and other senior leadership roles should review, analyse and work collectively to change.

Tame Senior Management Bully Squads

If leadership fosters a workplace bullying culture, then this attitude and behaviour will trickle down, permeate and dramatically alter the work culture in an extremely negative fashion. Human resource leaders, in particular, need to demonstrate to senior management that the adverse culture fails to foster productivity, teamwork and creativity – three vital objectives that every company wants to fulfil. Human resource leaders may consider corporate wide surveys, implemented by a third party vendor, that poll employees anonymously. If employees know that they can vent their frustrations and share feedback anonymously, without fear of losing their job, real change can start to occur.

Nurturing in-house talent with a well-defined leadership development program makes employees feel more connected to the business
Companies with a secure work environment increase productivity

Create Leadership Development Programmes

Nurturing in-house talent with a well-defined leadership development programme makes employees feel more connected to the business, eases the chain of succession and empowers employees to be more creative, connected and engaged. Just as there are companies in many shapes and sizes, leadership development programmes differ dramatically from company to company. The end goal of these programmes is that employees have an opportunity to improve their skills through classes and workshops, have access to promotional opportunities as they arise, and feel a sense of community and kinship with their company. Leadership development begins with recruitment as human resource professionals seek individuals who can successfully lead their company’s mission.

Develop Culture of Openness

Companies that have developed a culture of openness can provide and receive feedback at all levels. A 360-degree feedback initiative can be a valuable option but is only recommended after a company has begun its journey to developing an open culture.  If the workplace still fosters a ‘see something, say nothing’ ideology, employees will not be forthcoming for fear that their confidence won’t be kept, or that the source of negative or constructive feedback will be too easily identified. A third party survey company should be brought aboard to confidentially assess feedback by employees at all levels of the organisation.

Establish reporting mechanisms 

It is important for an organisation to establish clear reporting lines. These should be made especially clear in policies and procedures and communicated frequently. The expectation that employees report inappropriate, violent or suspicious activity can only be realised when there are measures in place that allow and encourage reporting.

Leadership effectiveness is dependent upon the ability to gain the trust of the people who work for them. This also assumes that the one holding the trust – the employee – will perform certain desired behaviours, and that the leader has both the desire and ability to “walk the talk.” People who feel they are in a safe and secure environment are capable of achieving great things. It is up to their leaders to tap into this fundamental optimism and allegiance, and move them forward to success. 

By building a successful culture where employees feel safe, not threatened, and not maligned by their bosses, they will flourish creatively and be more productive. By developing a culture where employees understand the range and varieties of workplace violence and its warning signs, they will feel empowered to do something about it. 

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