Fiona Young

In my work as an employment lawyer and mediator I have dealt with countless cases where an employee has felt alarmed, distressed, humiliated or  intimidated - in short- bullied - by behaviours of colleagues or managers towards them. Employers are often surprised and upset to hear of this (especially when it is by way of legal letter) and through my mediation work I have come to find that not many employers deliberately set out to make an employee feel this way. Mostly it boils down to tunnel vision on the part of the employer, looking at a particular goal or need of the business and reacting to that need or goal, without thinking about the nuances of working with human beings. In the spirit of anti-bullying week -  I give you the top 10 tips for how to be an awesome boss - from the lawyer who could potentially sue you if you are not   AND the mediator who gets to see both sides of the table, so knows what works!

  1. ACTIVELY LISTEN - make time to actively listen to your employees. This means hearing their concerns without being defensive or arguing back with them. Often simply hearing someone out can make the world of difference. We feel respected when we feel heard. Listen with humility, you may be the business owner, a senior manager, someone with years of experience, but everyday is an opportunity to learn and we learn the most when we listen well.

  1. INTERACT POSITIVELY AND POLITELY - the best leaders, and the employers most people like and more importantly want to be like tend to be those that are polite, respectful and interested in their staff. Humans naturally mirror the behaviour of those around us so if you create an employment environment in which people are naturally polite and respectful to each other, giving praise when praise is due and generally showing interest in one another as humans, the majority of the staff will follow these patterns of behaviour. These environments are easy to create without distracting from productivity, the key is to be polite, respectful and genuinely pleased to see eachother each day.

  1. SEE YOUR HUMANS AS YOUR GREATEST RESOURCE. Until we live in a world entirely run by AI humans are still the working worlds greatest and cleverest resource. Just like any engine or machine, a human will thrive if looked after well. This means, respecting rights to breaks, ensuring they take time to hydrate and eat during a long working day, being respectful and understanding if time off is required for sickness, holiday or family reasons (these are all statutory entitlements in any event). Respecting these days away from the office without interruption. Remunerating them according to their value, and recognising this value may increase over time as their skill and understanding of your business expands. But also being open and honest about reasons why remuneration cannot increase and finding other innovative  ways to reward and express appreciation. Like classic cars, a well looked after human can work for years and become a valuable asset which others will covet!

  1. BEHAVE AS YOU WANT YOUR STAFF TO BEHAVE - Leaders should lead by example and behave as you expect your staff to behave. Management is a privilege that is earned either by setting up the company or by showing skill and expertise that deserve promotion. However as Spiderman’s uncle Ben once said “with great power comes great responsibility”, basically no one wants to work for a manager with a “do I say not as I do” attitude and no one works well when they don’t want to work. It’s simple, be the inspiration you want your team to be and you will have an inspirational team. Also you can’t expect people to do things you wouldn’t expect to do  yourself  team leaders and managers should regularly familiarise themselves with work being undertaken by their team and ensure that the working conditions, work values and expectations are fair and reasonable This can be done by way of annual reviews/ on site discussions, town halls or team catch ups whatever works best for the organisation but keeps a managerial ear to the ground.

  1. USE PROCEDURES AND POLICIES AND SEEK ADVICE - Now I know many employers and managers might be reading this feeling picked on and the mediator in me needs to redress that balance.  I do accept that in some workplace there are difficult characters. The mediator in me reminds you that they may be difficult for a reason and if you really want to comply with 3 (above) you are best served figuring out why they may be difficult and what you can do to help change that. However, where there is a genuine problem there are kind, dignified and “unlikely to get you sued” ways of dealing with these professionally and fairly. This involves following fair process, presenting evidence of any failings, giving fair opportunity to change (warnings of performance review) and taking into account positive contributions, length of service and personal financial need and circumstances of the employee before dismissing them. The majority of unfair dismissal cases/bullying cases have come about because an employer skipped this important step. The procedure is there for a reason follow it and you may positively  surprise yourself and the employee with the outcome.

I am always happy to work with workplaces to help and advise them on creating an awesome dignified, “not likely to be sued” environment for their teams.

Mediation is a better way to resolve legal disputes

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