Family Violence; a Workplace Obligation?

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to The Warehouse Group’s (TWG) talk on the inroads and steps they have made within their doors in terms of addressing family violence. It was shocking, thought provoking, inspiring, shameful and heart-warming all at the same time.

It’s the stats I found the most disturbing, a few I’ll share with you here;

  • Every 5 mins in NZ there is a domestic violence related call out (Police call out)
  • It’s estimated that only 20% of incidences are reported
  • 1 in 3 NZ woman will be affected
  • At 85% of all cases reported, a child is present

And if those aren’t confronting enough, I’m sure a lot of people out there will be surprised to discover that in Anna Campbell from TWG’s words “violence doesn’t discriminate”. Age, religion, sexual orientation, socio economic factors and the like are all beside the point when it comes to family violence.

Dr Ang Jury from Woman’s Refuge spoke also, and reiterated their support for ALL people, all victims of violence, not just woman & children. Her and her team are on hand to help workplaces and people in workplaces to deal with situations of violence.

Anna, Julie Simpson and Pejman Okhovat from TWG and their team are inspirational in the work they’ve done to date and continue to do into the future. Their critical points for workplaces looking to make similar inroads into the topic in their workplaces are to ensure the strictest of confidentiality at all stages of the process, to ensure staff payments go into bank accounts with their name on it only, to provide training and support for their staff (endorsed from the top down and ensuring they take the conversation wider.

All speakers repeated the need to ensure all victims receive the right response the first time as they may not be brave enough to come forward again, this includes everything from the language used to the resources they receive being accurate. They need the confidence that everything will be confidential, that they have ongoing support and realistic timeframes going forward. There is no one size fits all approach, but recognising the issue, responding appropriately then referring victims and users to trained professionals for ongoing help and assistance is essential.

The heart-warming part was discovering some of the unexpected positive outcomes TWG have noted as a result of their efforts including staff taking more ownership of issues, having pride in the programme and greater loyalty to the organisation as a result. Issues such as bullying in the workplace have reduced and people are more willing to have brave conversations with each other.

My key takeaway is that we all have a responsibility to do what we can to change these statistics. To change the reality for so many of our society – your friends, family and co-workers are all affected. To start with we can all make this something people are able to talk about. We can all be mindful, understanding and provide support for both victims and their supporters…and the users of violence when they recognise they need help to change.

Given this is happening all around us, and that we spend more time at work and with our colleagues than anywhere else, I think there’s no better place to start than in the workplace. There are the obvious effects on the likes of absenteeism, productivity, engagement and staff retention but also the lesser known or calculable costs to business of employees who are living under these circumstances. And given it’s these people we’re all with day in day out, we’re more likely to notice changes in a person’s demeanour, potentially indicating an issue than with anyone else.

I am now at the beginning of my part in that journey; I am 100% committed to ensuring my organisation joins the movement going forward to change the horrific family violence stats in NZ. I have had conversations both inside and outside my organisation post the event and have meetings in place to discuss with our Culture & Performance and Health & Safety teams on how we take it forward. I’m exceptionally grateful to the team at The Warehouse Group for highlighting the issue and sharing their work, knowledge experiences and findings so far. #StoptheCycle #ItsnotOK

 

Contacts / Resources:

http://areyouok.org.nz/family-violence/

https://womensrefuge.org.nz/

https://whiteribbon.org.nz/  (White Ribbon)

 

 

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Youth Employment and the Future of Work, Part 2 – Collective Mentality

In my last blog Youth, Employment and the Future of Work, I discussed youth today, millennials, their outlook and their readiness for work now and into the future, and what companies, organisations and training institutes can do to steer and better prepare these groups for the workplace and future careers.

In this post I want to explore another phenomenon I came across in my increased and intensive time with youth of late, their collective mentality. On the whole I’ve found they think in terms of we and us instead of the me, I and my that I largely hear in in the Gen X bracket. It’s not just youth and millennials however; there are many indigenous communities the world over who live their lives collectively, communally from a social and work perspective. Here in New Zealand the indigenous Maori people are a prime example. They care about the wellbeing of the group as opposed to the individual and identify more with cooperation over competition, interdependence over independence. I note too, the massive rise and fall of labour unions, from the peak between 1940 – 1960 and the steady decline ever since. So is collective mentality and thinking in the workplace cyclical like so many other things in life or are we about to see a massive shift in the world of work?

In my HR career to date countless times I’ve had individuals (Gen X!) complaining of workloads, managers (also Gen X!) who say to collaborate and share the load – but has this ever really eventuated? In some cases yes, but in most it’s paying lip service to a problem and quietly ignoring it and the individuals struggle on regardless. Certainly more of a collective mentality in the workplace, more we and us, would improve workloads for many individuals especially as these seem to be increasing at an alarming pace of late. So is this a solution? Real collaboration? Caring about the wellbeing of all? A more tribal attitude when it comes to workplaces?

I note that conscious capitalism is on the rise, I wonder if this is being driven by the increased number of millennials and youth in employment. This was a hot topic at the Festival for the Future I attended recently; over 100 youth/millennials whose voice was loud and clear about wanting to make a difference, wanting more equality for all, shifting wealth and changing political policies to benefit the wider community.

I’m wondering what effect this is going to have on the future of work – especially given there are ever increasing examples of collective thinking being demonstrated in organisations and many of these are or have been start up organisations run by millennials, our future leaders and the future of work. I predict more collective working examples of individuals coming together and working across platforms, disciplines and geographical distances on projects and pieces of work. I predict more collaborative working spaces, where individuals and organisations share not only workspaces, but ideas, clients and development opportunities. I predict organisational structures changing as people work more within large corporates, but without the restrictions of specific job descriptions, in areas where they can specialise and utilise their expertise. I predict hearing the terms holocracy and meritocracy with much higher frequency. I predict more contracting and less permanent employment, ever more start-ups and small to medium sized organisations as technology changes and continues to evolve and develop. I predict more mergers of larger corporates as they compete on a global scale and not just in local markets.

I could go on and on with my predictions, but I’d love to hear what you think. Both about collective mentality in organisations, youth employment and the future of work.

#WellnessWarrior

The hash tag in the headline is used across social media for those on a health kick and endorsing a healthy way of living, but it’s also used for those living with chronic illness or disease. The number of New Zealanders living with chronic illness is scarily high and on the rise according to figures from the Ministry of Health New Zealand Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study, 2006–2016, and I feel certain NZ won’t be alone in this phenomenon. Those who I do think could be feeling very alone are those dealing with chronic illness at work. Be it physical or mental, these are illness’ no one else can see, often described as invisible illnesses and being chronic, won’t be just a one off occurrence.

There is much written on this topic on line and in papers & magazines from the individual perspectives of those dealing with these situations; they describe  reactions from others towards them and their situations as ranging from disdain to disbelief and vague understanding to sincere sympathy. But even given how much information is out there and being written to raise awareness and understanding I think more often than not they simply exist without any acknowledgement. Most people living with chronic illness, especially those that can’t be seen prefer to do so in private for a whole host of reasons. They don’t want to be judged. They don’t want pity. They want to be able to join in conversations on normal topics without their viewpoints being taken the wrong way. And most of all they want to appear normal. Chronic illness or disease is often multifaceted, so not only will it recur, but there are so many moving parts to it in some cases that people feel unable or unwilling to explain the extent of their illness, using an umbrella approach or describing one part of the issue/s if at all.

So what can be done to help those living day in day out with chronic illness or disease? First and foremost as with everything in life be mindful; treat others as you would have them treat you, if you haven’t got anything positive to say don’t say anything at all and all those other wonderful mottos to live by our parents gave us. Just be aware that we don’t always know what other people are dealing with. And should they choose to confide in you be understanding, be sympathetic but don’t be patronising. And try to avoid offering helpful advice if you haven’t got any first-hand experience on what they’re going through. Suggesting trying yoga to someone in chronic pain or sympathising with how tired you are too to someone which chronic fatigue won’t help and are things they’ve probably heard a million times before. Instead ask them what, if anything, can be done to help them during the bad times, encourage them to let you know when they’re having particularly hard times so at the very least they’re not going through it alone.

There are many things that can be done in the workplace to help ease these situations, make the circumstances more manageable for people and to provide support. Many firms offer the likes of flexi working arrangements where days and hours of work can be negotiated; others offer on-site occupational health and safety in the form of nurses and or wellness advisors. Employee Assistance programmes can be useful too; both for those dealing with mental and physical illness as both can be a burden and talking it through with a professional can be immensely helpful. Above all creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture will go a long way to making people feel they can be honest about these situations in the workplace. In today’s fast paced, technology driven, innovative, ever changing world many would feel it a sign of weakness to admit to and be honest about an illness, so it’s important we all work to create environments where this is ok.

As individuals I think if we all took just five minutes to Google a couple of hash tags we would learn a whole lot about living and working with chronic illness, and that in turn would bring more awareness in general. Hopefully that would also bring about more conversation and create more accepting and inclusive workplaces whereby people feel they can bring their whole selves to work. Therein lays my challenge to you: three hash tags, one minute for each on your choice of social media…#chronicillness #spoonie #invisibleillness to increase your own awareness.

Another Google search quickly unveiled a number of support groups, both in real life and via social media for an immense range of chronic illnesses. Ensure if someone does come to you or let you know they are dealing with something that you take it and them seriously and that you respect them coming to you. They may or may not know what other support is available out there, so help them explore the options available to them.

Be well!

What price {cost} a smile?

How far does a smile go? Ever walked past someone at work, on the street, in a queue who’s absolutely beamed at you…and found yourself genuinely smiling back? Or caught someone’s eye across the room and shared a grin? And have you ever had one of those moments where you’ve been feeling down or similar and had received a smile, a real smile from someone you knew or otherwise that actually made you feel a little better?

So what price a smile? It costs nothing, yet are you distributing them enough? Are you taking those couple of seconds to look people in the eye, acknowledge them and smile? Appropriately! For there are a hundred different types of smiles of course! But really, it’s such a small simple act, but can change a day, a mood, an outlook. And truly make a difference to another person.

I’m not sure there’s enough happiness in the work place anymore. People are heads down, bum up working harder, faster, smarter and more to innovate, challenge, create and service. And in doing so we’re achieving amazing things. But are we happy? And are we taking the odd moment to stop and notice, reflect and connect with those around us?

A smile doesn’t cost a thing; but is there a cost in a lack of smiles? Would people be more productive if they were happier at work? And would they be happier with more smiles – given and received? There are multiple types of people in workplaces, but have a think who are the ones who stand out? For the right reasons? I’d hazard a guess it’s the person quick with a smile, who’s head held high catching peoples eye and acknowledging them be it in the lift, walking the floor or coming into the building.

We should all be caretakers of morale at work as we all have the ability to directly affect it, in how we interact with those around us. Happiness is catchy and so are real and genuine smiles. Throw a few around the place a bit more often and see what comes back to you. It won’t cost a thing and you might even find you feel better in yourself for it. Smile!

The Bully Show

Bullying in the workplace has been a hot topic of conversation in the workplace and in the news in NZ this week following this incident. Thousands of people around the world including some seriously high profile celebrities (the likes of Ed Sheeran and Lorde) watched and have offered everything from opinions to condolences for both parties.

And so why is this incident so different from the likes of Simon Cowell who was also renowned for his harsh tongue at times? Or is it different? In this instance I think the incident is more of a personal attack, which I think is more what you could describe Simons’ incidences as.

So what constitutes bullying? The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment attempts to describe it here, along with case studies from employment law; concluding that it is unwanted and unwarranted behaviour that a person finds offensive, intimidating or humiliating and is repeated so as to have a detrimental effect upon a person’s dignity, safety, and well-being. It could also be something that someone repeatedly does or says to gain power and dominance over another, including any action or implied action, such as threats, intended to cause fear and distress.

What does this mean for employers?

  • Treat all matters seriously and act promptly when a bullying issue is brought to your attention.
  • Ensure there is no victimisation and that both parties are made aware of the support available to them.
  • Remain neutral throughout the process and ensure all parties are treated equally and courteously, free of any bias.
  • Communicate & Document. Ensure all facts, dates, meetings and outcomes are accurately documented and communicated to both parties, maintaining confidentiality at all times.

 
Employees, how can you deal with the situation?

  • Document the facts; keep records of incidences noting time, place, circumstances, witnesses, actions and effects.
  • Have a conversation; ensure you speak up, tell the right person, detail the facts and be careful about the language used (remembering a one off incident is not considered bullying)
  • Consequences; get a commitment from the organisation/bully that the behaviour will change and what the consequences will be of this not happening. Stay optimistic that things will change.
  • Seek professional help; if you are still struggling with the effects of the bullying be sure to talk to a professional counsellor or similar to ensure you properly work through the situation personally.

For both Employers and Employees it’s important to address the situation to ensure the safety and continued productivity of all affected, and to ensure proper help and advice is sought for a satisfactory resolution. The far reaching effects of bullying can be huge – don’t let it become a show stopper!

Get On Your Bike!

I’ve never been one for cycling, more of a walker / runner type myself. Even as a kid – I learnt to ride and even obtained a badge for it from school aged 11, but growing up where I did on Auckland’s North Shore there’s very few if any even mildly flat areas anywhere near where our house was. Not living far from there now I still have a serious uphill battle to get anywhere.

But these summer holidays I decided it was time to take the training wheels off Miss Four’s bike. And in doing so bought bikes for the other half and I to ride along with her. My reasoning for this was threefold; a fun form of exercise for the three of us as Miss Four can ride a lot further than she can walk, a way for us to spend more time together as a family unit and thirdly so Miss Four could watch and learn from us once the training wheels came off.

It struck me as we were riding around Auckland’s waterfront together recently the analogy between this and running a team. Teams run best when they are in alignment, working together cohesively, pushing each other to go harder, faster, further than ever before.   Teams with a culture of collaboration and innovation, riding in sync will achieve much greater productivity through increased intrinsic motivation.

Putting time and effort into relationships within teams, working to build trust and open forums for communication where individuals are working towards a common goal are essential elements for success in teams.  Much like us on our bike rides, taking stock now and then and checking to ensure all are on the same path – or at least that their paths are in alignment, and that all are free to express their thoughts.

Creating a coaching culture within teams whereby members feel empowered to remove their training wheels, watching and learning – developing themselves through growth in others will further develop trust among group members. This in turn ensures individuals carry their own weight as well as supporting that of others when required.

Working as a team also ensures you can support each other when the likes of Miss Four has a spill, or the other half gets speed wobbles, and doing it together keeps it light hearted, relaxed and fun.

I can’t wait for my next ride. Get on your bike!

Diversity & Inclusion

One of my favourite things to do in life is to watch my four year old daughter interacting with others her age when she doesn’t know I’m watching. Whether it be at preschool, playing in our street, the local park or out at the mall, the place and the people make no difference to her, everyone is included. She doesn’t differentiate the way the she relates to and interacts with people be they young, old, male, female, blonde, brunette – you get where I’m going with this. And it’s got me thinking lately about diversity and inclusion.

As I’ve said children don’t discriminate; so when is it we begin to be programmed to view people as different than ourselves, or to start to classify them under specific banners and headings? And what elicits this change? Does it get worse as we progress through life? Are there factors that contribute more or less to this phenomenon? And once learned can biases or ways of classifying people be unlearned? And would this be beneficial to society? Is diversity something that should be actively pursued in a workplace or is it something that should naturally occur out of an inclusive society? And does such thing exist?

That’s a lot of questions arising from the simple pleasure of watching a child forge their own relationships in the world, I know. But I can’t help wondering what I as a parent can do to halt or reverse what seems an almost inevitable decent into various biases? And in turn what could be done in organisations to do the same. I realise there’s been a lot written about and researched in terms of this subject in the workplace, and there is some incredible change starting to take place, but it’s a large slow old ship in general that will take a long time to complete a 180° turn.

New Zealand’s an incredibly diverse society to grow up in now, and I think our younger generation will be leaps and bounds ahead of generations before in terms of diversity due to the nature of that. A 2012 study, by the New Zealand Herald (published here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10837572) is a testament to this and there are some really eye opening highlights from the 2013 census available (http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-about-national-highlights/cultural-diversity.aspx).

My daughter start school next year, at arguably one of the country’s most culturally diverse primary schools with 76 different ethnicities identified among approximately 500 pupils according to Board of Trustees members and the 2012 E.R.O. report (http://www.ero.govt.nz/Early-Childhood-School-Reports/School-Reports/Freemans-Bay-School-07-03-2012). At the tender age of four she is already well aware of cultural differences, but not biases. She knows Mummy is European, she herself identifies as Maori; she speaks both English and Te Reo fluently and easily adapts to and picks up on other languages – a week’s holiday in Noumea saw her come home speaking mainly French! When she starts school she will be entering a bilingual classroom, where despite her identifying as Maori, in terms of looks she will be vastly different from the majority of students. But this won’t matter; to her or the other students in her class and the rest of the school.  Within minutes of her first school visit she had disappeared with other students to explore, and I have no doubt this is how she will continue her schooling – by easily identifying with people from all walks of life and not treating them differently because of what they identify with or as, and despite any labels society may choose to impose on them.

I think we can learn a lot from pre and primary school children and the way they view the world. If we all held on to the inclusive and non-discriminatory views such as theirs we would all enjoy a society free of biases, without the need to create diverse workplaces as they would be a natural result of society. I haven’t got the answers to all my questions, but as a parent I’m going to do all I can to ensure my daughter doesn’t lose her naturally inclusive ways, and to encourage her to develop even more inclusive ways and practices with the hope that she in turn will encourage that in those around her.

I think current generations have made an excellent start; being aware of the need for diversity and inclusion is a huge step in the right direction. I hope this will simply become second nature for future generations and I can see this becoming a reality. The reasoning is two-fold; we are aware now, organisations and individuals the world over are actively working towards this and the world is a vast place but becoming smaller every day. The world of work is changing; borderlines are blurring and being removed, people are travelling and relocating for work the world over, and as a result societies are changing, diversifying…and hopefully becoming more inclusive. I say I always advocate modelling the behaviour of children, but in this instance, I’ve no doubt they’ve got it right.