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Time to build safe, inclusive workplaces


Wednesday 24 May 2023

Time to build safe, inclusive workplaces
By Roseann Kelly, CEO of the Women in Business Group.

The workplace ought to be a space conducive in bringing out our productive best. Whether remote or in-person, the modern-day office should be a place of inclusivity and shared success, where staff are enabled, emboldened and ultimately content. However, what we have seen play out in recent weeks falls far short of the gold standard.

Workplaces poisoned by an internal toxicity that can threaten to unravel even the most respected

Often these businesses fail on multiple fronts. Failure to adequately train their managers, for one, but also a failure to prioritise a healthy workplace culture by severing ties with the harassers and the offenders there and then.

This in itself only creates a vicious circle where other employees think twice about coming forward to raise concerns or complaints. At which point the trust is broken and all staff, male and female, suffer.

Women may be signifcantly more likely than men to experience a workplace environment they would deem to be toxic – 35 per cent more likely, according to Glassdoor – and research shows those occupations which tend to have a disproportionately higher number of female employees, such as childcare and psychology, have the lowest ‘toxic culture gender gap’.

Be that as it may, toxic workplace culture can have a wider ripple effect beyond those individuals experiencing it. There’s the demoralising impact on the men and women within the organisation who have done no wrong. And on a business level, innovation and productivity plummets.

The damage to reputation is long-lasting, too, and in some cases beyond repair. It begs the question: what practical solutions can help mitigate or outright avoid this kind of crisis?

For one, what we need is greater accountability. We need to create workplace environments where all staff members are enabled to report inappropriate behaviour, for example through a ‘call it out initiative’ or male-specifc ally programmes.

Indeed it’s only through the implementation of robust policies and reporting channels that employees, male and female, will feel confidentt in calling out any wrongdoing.

Organisations must also be clear and decisive in their sexual harassment policies, operating under a zero-tolerance strategy and staying well clear of NDAs. In the past too many business leaders quietly settle sexual harassment cases with non-disclosure agreements rather than owning the problem so that they may set an example in dealing with malpractice.

A concentration of bad behaviours requires true leadership to dispel and ultimately enable a business to correct course. To draw on a diversity of voices and expertise to transform attitudes from the inside out.

Workplace culture is created by people, from top to bottom. The onus is on organisations to be vocal in this arena and build a safe, inclusive and diverse workplace for the betterment of all.

Wednesday 24 May 2023

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