Sue Unerman
Dec 2, 2020

It's time to stand up to bad behaviour

We should nurture a workplace culture where people can call out inappropriate actions with the aim that everyone feels that they belong and can therefore fulfil their potential

It's time to stand up to bad behaviour

One in three people at work has personally experienced bias, harassment or inappropriate behaviour at work. 

Do you think that this always happened when they were on their own with someone? I think that we know that this isn’t the case.

Our unique research, by Dynata, for our new book Belonging, states that 39% of the workforce overall acknowledged that they have witnessed such behaviour, but this rises to 57% of people who work in marketing or PR. 

We have surely, all, at some point, been bystanders. We have all perhaps been in the position where we have not felt able to speak up when someone more senior than us, perhaps the boss that recommends when we get promoted or are given a pay rise, says or does something that makes a fellow employee feel like an outsider, as if they don’t belong.

It isn’t easy to speak up sometimes, for all kinds of reasons. The question is how can we change this to a better, kinder, culture where everyone feels they belong?

There is a new kind of training being piloted in the police force in the US. EPIC stands for ethical policing is courageous. The New Orleans Police Department (pictured) is running this peer-intervention programme, in collaboration with community partners, to promote a culture of high-quality and ethical policing, policing that “educates, empowers and supports the officers on the streets to play a meaningful role in “policing” one another. EPIC is a peer-intervention programme that teaches officers how to intervene to stop a wrongful action before it occurs”. 

The programme was inspired by holocaust survivor and professor Dr Erwin Staub. Now in his eighties, after an academic career focusing on understanding violence, he became concerned about excessive use of force by police in the US. Based on his own experience of active bystanders – allies – who helped to save his life, he originated a training scheme that redefines what being a good team player is: sometimes it's not standing by your colleague at any cost; sometimes it involves staging an intervention to prevent harmful actions.

The point is that all current police training teaches officers how to react decisively if they feel at threat. There has been no training at all to teach officers how to intervene if they feel that their colleague is not behaving appropriately, or to teach officers how to accept that intervention when adrenaline is spiking and they feel under threat.

This is groundbreaking, and we can learn a lot from it.

At MediaCom we have all had Allyship training this year. It was useful and enlightening.

Every executive in every business would gain greater understanding from a similar programme. 

Across our industries – marketing, advertising and PR – we need to introduce the role-playing of staging interventions when we find ourselves a witness to bias, harassment or any kind of inappropriate behaviour.  And we need to role play taking criticism and feedback to our own behaviour whatever level of seniority we are at, or whoever the feedback is from.

We can make our industry better. Only when everyone feels they belong at work will we really harness the talent around us for the benefits of our clients and customers. 

Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at MediaCom

Campaign UK

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