October 07, 2010

Cyber-bullying ...at Work

What can we learn from the tragic and untimely death of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi? Are we equipped to address issues of cyber-bullying at work? How do we even know it’s happening, short of monitoring the daily activities of our employees on their workplace computers?

Simply put, cyber-bullying is the use of technology – including email, instant messaging, social networks, or the inappropriate use of cameras and smart phones – to harass, threaten, embarrass or otherwise target another person.

It is important for all employers to review whether they have appropriate resources in place to be able to address these concerns when they arise. A starting place is to ensure that your organization has policies, such as Anti-Harassment, Electronic Communications, or Workplace Violence policies in place that inform employees about the standards of appropriate workplace conduct. In light of increased activity with technology, including the use of personal equipment including smart phones, iPads, etc., it is important to review these policies and add clear language about bullying, including cyber-bullying, to these policies. And, when concerns are raised, organizations should take immediate action by conducting investigations and resolving disputes.

On the subject of workplace monitoring of company-owned equipment, if that’s the route you want to take, be sure to coordinate your efforts with your IT departments. Sometimes the cyber-bullying will occur off premises and not on company time. Be sure to consult with your legal counsel on what actions may be taken to address off-duty conduct.

In addition to ensuring that the corporate systems are in place, it is key to focus on employees who raise concerns and to educate supervisors and managers on how to handle issues that arise and what they should be looking out for. Get advice: talk to the representatives of your Employee Assistance Programs about how they might be able to provide counseling for employees. Often times, cyber-bullying, like other forms of harassment or violence, has emotional or psychological consequences.

From newspaper reports, Mr. Clementi may have posted his concerns about the broadcasting of his intimate encounter, on message boards and complained to his dorm supervisors. Training is going to be a key element of your plan for prevention. Train your managers to recognize signs of employee distress and on crisis management and intervention techniques for when issues arise. Train all of your employees on the proper adherence to the various policies that your organization has in place to address these issues. Being proactive and educating our workforce about the ever-growing issues involving the use – and misuse – of new technologies that have an impact in the workplace may help prevent another terrible tragedy.

This is a guest post from Blue Mesa Group practitioner Laurie Zeligson. Read more from Laurie here.

Laurie has spent 25 years helping businesses and their employees do the right thing. An experienced employment law attorney and human resources professional based out of our offices in New York, NY, Laurie consults on all types of workplace issues ranging from discrimination and harassment to ethics, compliance programs and policy development. Read her full bio, here.

September 10, 2010

Our Best Teachers...

We must abandon all hope of creating a better past.

Wise leaders learn from the past, are keenly aware of the present, and using what they know now, shape the future.

Some of our best teachers are the mistakes we make. Few of us slip-up intentionally. Yet we can spend an inordinate amount of time in regret and even remorse, and miss the valuable lesson that is right in front of us.

Tom Watson, founder of IBM epitomized the value of mistakes. His message to leaders of IBM was, “Double your rate of failure. You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. It is better to aim at perfection and miss it than to aim at imperfection and hit it. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success. On the far side.”

What have you learned today about a mistake you made yesterday? Emulate Mr. Watson by going to the far side. It might change your life.

June 08, 2010

All we do is talk talk talk.

It is true - all we do, all day long is talk with one another. And talking all day long is not only a necessity, it is the vehicle by which we get things done. Every organization is a network of conversations. We use conversations to coordinate action, give and get feedback, clarify requests, etc. Without conversations, we wouldn't be in business.

And let's not limit our view of conversations to just talk. We have conversations through e-mail, text messaging, pictures, chance hallway meetings, and myriad other venues. Even non-conversation communicates something. Several research studies claim that 80% of communication is non-verbal.

Think about the network of conversations--from the end user (customer) to the top person at an organization. Speaking and listening is not trivial, and we owe it to ourselves to pay close attention to the quality of our conversations. As leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that our message is received, understood, and that the receiver has a predisposition to do something that may include listening, taking our message to others, or simply responding to us.

If all we do is talk, and since all we are is a network of conversations, we owe it to ourselves to pay attention to our words, our intentions, and our expected outcomes. Without such attention we may (and probably often already get) some unintended consequences that are costly.

If you want to learn more about how to be more skillful in workplace conversation, email me: Micki@BlueMesaGroup.com.

June 07, 2010

Ethics – don’t go it alone

Ethics have been tested and violated since the beginning of time. But their importance today is paramount. It is easy to give power to the justifications and the ‘yeah buts’. Now is the time to recommit to leading from principle and ethics.

Many ethical quandaries with bad outcomes are the result of an individual’s choice to take action without asking for help. People offer abundant explanations for this, but it is rarely the wisest course of action.

A Chief Ethics Officer of a major corporation once shared her perspective with me and it has served me well over the years. In today’s complex world, the “right “ answer may not always be obvious or easy to find. Her perspective was, “When you are grappling with an ethical issue, ask for help. Seek another’s perspective, input and advice.” In a hierarchical setting, ask your managers and colleagues for help. Getting their input before you act can spare you the unpleasant experience of being alone without their support.

We are not alone and can invite the perspective of others to inform our thinking. Ultimately, we bear the responsibility for our choices and the consequences. Why should we go it alone when there are resources available? We may not like their answers initially, but it is likely that we will come to a better decision if we count on others rather than going it alone.

In addition to other people, there are other resources that are easily accessible. As coaches, we belong to the International Coach Federation (ICF). The ICF publishes the ethical guidelines for coaches. We rely on these and refer to them whenever an ethical question emerges.

Is it time to reflect on the resources available to you so you can access them when and if you need to?