The #Bonkban has been a topic spreading beyond Canberra. If there is one question that business owners have been asking as more and more stories of inappropriate workplace behaviour fill our newsfeeds, it is this: how do I write a policy that will prevent this in my team?
As you will have guessed from the headline, most HR professionals do not believe that a #bonkban is necessary or likely to be effective. It’s too specific. It may well be appropriate to ban intimate relationships at work – not sure how that will work for a family business where a married couple are the owners! (Add your own joke at this point.)
What is t he real question about the #bonkban? What does it mean in business contexts? Its purpose really seems to be about making sure that decisions, and decision-making processes, are free from bias; they should be truly merit-based and impartial.To me, that is the statement or the policy that should have been written. It would provide guidance on what benchmark you will use to hold everyone accountable for making an unbiased decision. In that way you can review every decision. And if there is a factor that created undue bias – such as a friendship outside of work – you can challenge it. Simply use that overarching policy/value of making unbiased decisions.
The challenges that most business owners are facing at the moment are about more issues than sexual conduct and harassment in the workplace. Many business owners I know are seeking assistance to handle poor and inappropriate behaviour such as: (and feel free to wince at all those you’ve experienced for yourself)
It’s no wonder that many small business owners are seeking alternatives to employing staff! Sadly, this is not an easy journey either as rules regarding casual and fixed term employment are changing regularly. (See Neil Fairley's posts)
There is nothing here about applying the #bonkban to business. This approach to writing policies and implementing is far more relevant and powerful.
Don’t go so far into detail that it becomes a case of “it wasn’t there, so therefore it’s not covered.” Keep your policies to principles and statements such as, "We always treat others with respect." A policy should provide a guideline and be supported by examples. Rather than being a list of what can and cannot be done, they define what behaviour you are seeking to support and maintain.
Many HR professionals say that you can train for skills far more easily than change attitudes. Too many businesses make the mistake of hiring highly skilled people, even when their attitude or behaviours are unsuitable. Such decisions almost guarantee they will create problems in the future. It’s OK to ask questions about how individuals have responded to tension in previous situations. You don’t want to hire someone who yells and swears at others when they are under pressure.
You and your senior staff need to role model the behaviour that you want to see in your staff. People will do what you say, WHEN that is consistent with what they see you do. As a business owner, you know that growing your business involves other people. You want to be able to hire and retain the right people and for the team to be as harmonious as it possibly can. Having well-written policies that cover the intent rather than the detail is a powerful starting point.If you'd like help creating better, simpler, more effective workplace policies, email me, or call me on 0438 843970.