Most of us would agree that any form of extreme behaviour is harmful. Not only for the individual exhibiting the behaviour but also for those affected.
The problem is often about balancing interventions. How can we ensure that the person responsible for the negative behaviour gets help or necessary rehabilitation?
We also need to consider effectively safeguarding victims and securing their swift and complete recovery. Workplace bullying prevention and anti-harassment training online deal comprehensively with these issues to help us make the right choices in our approach towards others in workplaces
One approach to workplace harassment prevention for employees is the adoption of zero tolerance. We need to understand whether this is appropriate, as one seeks to implement values, policies, procedures and practices that help prevent harassment and promote well-being and healing.
There is no doubt that the zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment in the workplace will send a strong message that certain behaviours will not be tolerated, and that there will be severe penalties for offences.
People will know upfront that there is little room for extenuating circumstances and even minor infringements of codes of behaviour, written or at common law, will be dealt with decisively. The commitment to zero-tolerance serves to reinforce the absolute and overriding importance that businesses will protect their people. There are, however, a few downsides that may limit real justice.
One of the potentially problematic areas with zero-tolerance policies is that people in positions of authority are normally not allowed to exercise wide-ranging discretion or change punishment. In considering and reviewing matters, circumstances and subjective judgement by decision-makers are diluted.
Usually, authorities in charge are required to impose a predetermined punishment regardless of individual culpability. There is an extremely rigid direction on punishments that must be upheld. This creates a great deal of certainty when dealing with bullying and harassment as covered in bullying prevention training. It can also create fear.
There is a danger that people will not report any unacceptable behaviour if they feel the punishment may not fit the crime, so to speak. If termination of employment is the automatic outcome of reporting, people may try alternatives. Zero-tolerance can be viewed as too ruthless by many who are intent on always trying to balance the interests of all.
On the flip side, workplace harassment prevention for employees is the concept of relationship restoration after an incident as the preferred focus. Particularly if one party does not exit the business.
Fundamentally the focus is on parties taking responsibility for what they have done and the effect it has had on others. Once the behaviour is called out by everyone as unacceptable—the consequent steps will look more deeply at what is causing this behaviour.
Parties work to devise strategies to get the right help to enable change and growth. Timing and early success are crucial in turning things around.
No wrong substitution
If accepting extreme behaviour is the fundamental problem that we are grappling with in bullying and harassment, then imposing another extreme of zero-tolerance may not be the ideal solution.
The organisation would want to model the most progressive, well balanced and rational approaches when dealing with issues of such kind. Sound judgement, equality, fairness and empowerment must be the mainstream in all our policies, procedures and approaches.
The more time and energy we invest into training on these subjects, the greater the probability that we will have fewer incidents to deal with in the first place. We need to continually build knowledge, awareness, and the right attitude towards these challenges so that we are prepared.
When we are confronted with an incident, we will not simply rely on predetermined statements of our position, but will also have the latitude to make the right choices and do the right things. As a business, we ought to always be more invested in correction than punishment.
This is part and parcel of a continuous improvement of culture, not only for the business but for all who are a part of it.