The role of the leader is to create a smooth operating and empowered organization that frees employees from obstacles and barriers to their personal productivity. The presence of harassing behaviors and those who would use them against their fellow employees destroys any and all empowerment and organizational cohesiveness a leader builds.
Harassment in any form humiliates and frustrates not only the victim but the employees forced to witness these behaviors on a consistent and regular basis. A "conspiracy of silence" typically develops that creates an organizational tolerance of harassment even when corporate policies are in place to prevent harassment in any form from occurring.
While harassment may not be tolerated at the higher levels of management, it can be present in the lower echelons of the organization. A failure to deal with this jeopardizes the victim of harassment, the company, and the leader who observes it but fails to take appropriate action to eliminate it.
The real legal ramifications and consequences are becoming increasingly severe for the leader and company that turn a blind eye to this negative behavior. Additionally, leaders allow their authority to be undermined and diminished, which results in a measurable impact upon their professional and the company's financial performance. What appears to be an easy decision to "look the other way" can have far-reaching career advancement implications.
Surveys published by Harvard Business School regarding employees' perceptions of harassing behavior show that multiple or extreme instances clearly have serious ramifications for organizations. These surveys included employees from a number of major U.S.-based corporations and specifically indicated the following:
Harvard reported a 15 percent decline in job satisfaction between those employees who never witnessed these harassing behaviors and those who witnessed two or more instances within their company.
Approval ratings of supervisors who tolerated these behaviors in the workplace plummeted by 20 percent. Included with this is the loss of trust in the system that is supposed to allow employees to make complaints without negative consequences in terms of their jobs and potential for advancement within the organization.
Organizations experienced a 10 percent decline in company communications. This is due to a lack of trust in the system and a feeling among employees that they are placing themselves in jeopardy if they make complaints about harassing behaviors. There is a strong sentiment that management does not take discipline seriously and that there is a fear of reprisal that keeps employees silent.
Organizations experienced a 15 percent drop in the approval of the actions of senior management. The prevailing view is that senior managers are out of touch with what is happening in the lower echelons of the organization, specifically highlighted by the fact that they feel adequate policies and channels are in place to deal with the problem of harassment.
Personal commitment to the organization is reported to drop approximately 20 percent as employees feel they have been left on their own to deal with these problems. There is a prevailing view that when harassment occurs, they are powerless to do anything to effectively handle the problem. This is why so many ultimately go outside of the company and go through the legal system to handle the problem.
Employee turnover increases with the existence of workplace harassment within the organization. Approximately 30 percent of those who witness harassing behavior will actively look for a new job. For employees who have actually been harassed the number increases to approximately 50 percent. This represents a loss to the organization that then has to replace and train new employees as well as a drain on experienced and productive employees who refuse to tolerate this negative behavior.
Additionally, once employees feel compelled to seek new employment due to the hostile workplace environment, the liability risks to the company increase as many will seek compensation for financial and monetary losses associated with the change in jobs.
It is difficult for companies to quantify the total financial impact these factors have on efficiency and productivity, not to mention the financial risks associated with lawsuits stemming from this behavior. It places leaders in the dilemma of having to effectively lead in what may be considered a hostile workplace environment. The principles of empowerment and team development are negated, completely undermining leaders' efforts.
Contact Timothy Bednarz, firstname.lastname@example.org, 715-342-1018.
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