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Time For Administrative Professionals To Stay Vigilant!

What if you had Donald Trump as a boss?

Even if you are a Trump supporter, you cannot deny that our new President ran his entire campaign exhibiting Class A, typecast bully behavior.

This may lead one to ask: Is this the new paradigm of acceptable behavior in the workplace today?

From his constant barrage of insults and attacks on his opponents (and anyone else in his wake) on through his disrespectful and unapologetic attitude (both alleged and documented) toward women and minorities, Trump ran true to form to a bully personification. The message was clear: If you don’t agree with me – you’re not only wrong, you’re history!

Even though one could claim this was “campaign mode” based on his Celebrity Apprentice playbook, he was still applying for top employer in the free world. Do bosses now have a new role model?

In a word, NO! We have made great strides in combatting harassing behavior in the working environment. Today, if an employee (at any level of responsibility) exhibited such disrespectful conduct, the gears would be set in motion for that individual to be corrected, disciplined and maybe even fired. And, if it was a CEO who owned the business, the situation still could escalate into a hostile and costly environment.

Employees can take heart. We have safeguards in place today and they will not be revoked (not even by an executive order). We have an established anti-harassment law with teeth in it, specific policies and guidelines in place, along with ongoing awareness training and, most importantly, swift consequences for poor behavior. Corporate America has embraced the harassment-free workplace and is not reversing its position.

COSTS TO MANAGEMENT
One of the reasons Corporate America is taking the respectful working environment seriously is the high cost of harassment of any kind. Unchecked, the effects are: increased stress, lower self-esteem and poor productivity among the abused, which in turn damage any organization’s effectiveness, stability and profitability. The costs rise incrementally when victims fight back because the employer allowed the situation to exist or persist.

Harassing behaviors tend to be combinations of the following: sexual harassment verbal harassment, physical harassment and emotional harassment (the latter often referred to as “bullying below the radar”). Some behaviors can be argued as legally actionable and some cannot. However, harassment of any kind is illegal if it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment. Then, you may quickly go down the rabbit hole of legal action.

Regardless, if any such behavior dominates an environment, fresh ideas are eliminated and employees are reduced to “yes people” who keep their heads down and their mouths shut. This may work in the short run – but not the long run (think Wells Fargo).

If bullying behavior is tolerated, the company is damaged from the inside out by chewing up its people. Add to that, if employees have not already headed for the exits, there is what I call the “I quit but I forgot to tell you” syndrome: employees show up for work physically but check out mentally and emotionally – further draining a company’s progress.

EMPLOYEE RESPONSIBILITY
It’s a fact of business life that employees will never have the same power that their bosses have. But, this does not mean they don’t have any power.

No professional can operate with blinders on. If you encounter or witness bully behavior you have a responsibility to follow your company’s procedures regarding a harassment complaint.

What you do not get to do is look the other way and/or (even worse) suffer your own circumstances in silence, remember the frightening words of the German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “You become what you tolerate!”

Unfortunately, there will always be huffing and puffing bosses and, also, ethically impaired peers who actually believe their browbeating intimidation tactics achieve legitimate business objectives. But, organizations today are working hard to keep their employees safe and avoid the costly “hostile working environment.”

This does not mean, however, that we should not remain focused and vigilant in our efforts to maintain such an ethical environment. Organizations today are ramping up their ethics training (both on-line and in-house), establishing Ethics Departments and/or Ethics Point Persons and proactively emphasizing their Codes of Ethics/Conduct, Mission Statements and policies – benefiting us all. Most importantly, they are recognizing employees need (and deserve) a blueprint on how they are expected to behave at their particular workplace.

How President Trump treats his own employees is an unknown to us, and how he will choose to govern as our president will unfold in the time ahead. Hopefully, he does not parody his campaign bully behavior. But, what IS known is – he does NOT get to redefine and redesign what is and what is not considered acceptable behavior in the workplace today.

This is my challenge to all admin professionals for 2017 Admin Professionals Week: Now is the time to dial up your professional selves. We all have a responsibility to maintain an ethical and harassment-free working environment –which we can only achieve by respecting those around us – at any level of responsibility.

This is not the “politically correct” thing to do. It’s just the right thing to do.


Nan_DeMarsAbout the author: Nan DeMars CAP is an internationally-recognized speaker, trainer and author on the topic of Workplace Ethics. Her latest book is: You’ve GOT To Be Kidding! How to Keep Your Job and Your Integrity! (John Wiley Publishing). Contact Nan at 952-835-1148 or www.office-ethics.com

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