It has come to my attention recently that as we get closer to the end of the year peoples behaviours in the workforce seem to change. Some for the better as they get excited about the festive season and holidays and some for the worse as pressure starts to build.

As I am always out on the road I get to see quite a few different work environments and in my humble opinion behaving appropriately in the workforce really comes down to one thing. Respect. That means respect for your colleagues, respect for any customers or clients you are dealing with, and respect for yourself. That doesn’t seem like a difficult thing to grasp, it’s fairly straight forward but sadly, people are getting it wrong. Often, mistakes regarding this come down to nothing more than oversight in judgement. This means it’s relatively easy to deal with and move on from. The trick is, to be open to having the conversation that maybe you made a mistake.

Respect for the people you work with

From the way you talk to them, to the things you discuss, to your body language – it all matters. If you work with someone who holds a different religious or political belief to you, it is okay to ask them about it, providing you keep the conversation on an educational basis. The minute emotions and avid opinion come into play, it’s best to find yourself an out. After all, religion and politics are very touchy subjects and if you feel you may get overheated during a discussion like this, it’s best to leave it alone and discuss something else. Innocent conversation is easy to create, and starting a working relationship with someone by striking up a conversation about your differences, isn’t the greatest place to start. You’d be better to focus on the things you have in common, and build a rapport with the person before you ask the more sensitive questions. Of course, the things you have in common won’t be immediately obvious. It’s easy to find out though, with questions like “What did you do on the weekend?” or “How long have you been working here?” or “Do you like it here?”

An important aspect of respecting the people you work with, crosses paths with respecting yourself. A lot of companies today will specify what is acceptable behaviour and what is not when hiring and may even summarise this in their job descriptions. It really comes down to following the correct procedures that your work has set out.  Making sure for example that people in blue collar environments have the right protective gear, or filling out an incident report when they trip down the stairs, is an essential part of behaving appropriately in the workforce. It shows a respect for the wellbeing of your colleagues and a pride in your own work, that demonstrates respect for yourself. It reflects well on you whether you’re a manager or on your day.

Disgruntled and downright rude people

We’ve all had to deal with these people before and handling it professionally is essential to yourself and the company you work for. You don’t have to be a master in conflict resolution, it’s okay to refer particularly aggressive customers to your superiors – in fact is probably better that you do. However, being kind and keeping your voice level in these situations will be more likely to give yourself and the business you work for a good name, thus benefiting you, your colleagues and your workplace. You can always go into the breakout room, and have a cry or a vent after you’ve dealt with the confrontational situation. Which brings us to our next point. Part of being a good team member and showing appropriate behaviour in the workplace, is looking out for the people you work with. This means going to check on them when you think they may not be okay. Each year here at Optimum we take time out on “RUOK Day” This is normally with a morning tea and the running of mini workshops.  We have actually found this to be very beneficial and really gets the team involved and thinking along this subject.   If you see someone who is dealing with a negative situation, it’s a good idea to check up on them and make sure they’re not too shaken up. Good behaviour in the workplace definitely involves team work, and teams need to be able to rely on one another.

This next topic shouldn’t need to be discussed, after all it’s the twenty first century. Sadly though, it needs to be mentioned. Sexual harassment, to men or women is not okay, in or outside the workplace. Sometimes the line does blur and you won’t always know you are making someone uncomfortable. The best way to judge this, is to pay attention when someone asks you to stop. Persistently asking someone to go on a date with you, may not seem too bad but it doesn’t matter what it seems like to you. As soon as you start making someone else uncomfortable, you’ve crossed the line and you need to apologise and retreat immediately. You might have said something that is seemingly harmless, that has actually hit a major nerve. Always stop if you are in doubt, after all it is better to be safe than sorry.

At the end of the day, appropriate behaviour is a matter of common sense. Think about whether you would be okay with seeing someone talk to, or treat your mum or dad, the way you are treating someone. Of course, everyone has rough days that get you down and sometimes you say things or do things you don’t mean. It’s important to recognise this though and make amends. As bad as your day might be, you have no evidence to support the idea that the person who wore the brunt of your anger, isn’t having a worse day.

In general every business in every industry has certain guidelines to which employees must adhere to. If you follow these it should be a pleasant environment to work in.  So remember, the one rule for appropriate behaviour in the work force is, respect for yourself, your colleagues, all your clients and customers.

Alicia Sumich – Group Manager – Business Development

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