By nature I am an optimist.
And yet every now and then I come face to face with things that make me shake my head.
Not long ago I sat in on a training session with a potential client. While my purpose was to assess the material being used one couldn't help notice the behaviors of the group.
In this case a debate stirred amongst them about appropriate workplace behavior. A video used in class led several participants to start rationalizing and excusing one of the actors' inappropriate comments.
I was struck by how seemingly otherwise intelligent and informed professionals so quickly downplayed responsibility for the behaviors of the “bad” actor because of the “signals” the woman in the vid was supposedly sending.
Let me share with you what I shared with them: we are always responsible for our own behavior.
Responsibility is for All
- We are each responsible for our own behavior all the time, short of mental incompetence. There is no excuse for poor behavior due to someone else's dress, language, temperament etc. Have you ever noticed how exceedingly polite most law enforcement is when in the act of arresting or transporting someone? They've long since understood they're always responsible for their behavior. Adults get this. And accept it. We are always responsible for ourselves
- Management is responsible for setting standards and expectations. Whatever culture you encounter in a workplace has either been overtly or tacitly approved and thus supported by management. I have no sympathy for the manager who tells me “that's just the way things are” if I ask about a sick culture. No. That's the way they are today becuase management can't or won't step in with clear expectations and outline acceptable behaviors. No, we can't change someone's values. But we can set expectations and hold people accountable. That's what responsible management does. Every day
- Human Resources has the responsibility for diagnosing the climate and protecting it through remedial steps and appropriate interventions. Sometimes HR people tell me things like “I'm not the moral police”. I get that: but you'd damn sure better be the moral compass. If you don't know what's right and acceptable, or worse you do know but can't help others understand it, you need to get out of HR. Yesterday. Our role includes many things, and ensuring that the right standards are in place and protected is one of them. If you can't be responsible for that HR is a really bad fit for you
We have a shared responsibility across functions, geographies and hierarchies to create and maintain environments enabling people to bring their best to work. We call this competitiveness.
It makes no sense to get the best resources you can, pay dearly for them and then constrict their performance by immersing them in a sick and toxic culture.
Like seldom-exercised muscle groups responsibility may become lax and flaccid, but like those same groups it never goes away. Responsibility must be exercised to be healthy.
And each of us is always responsible for our own behavior.