Discriminatory behaviour is, unfortunately, not limited to Westminster and Hollywood. It happens in our own profession, often before our very eyes. And it can be difficult to know how to deal with this, whether as victim or observer, when you belong to such an apparently upright and genteel profession as ours.
Ahead of IP Inclusive’s workshop on “Managing inappropriate behaviour at work” on 1st February, I thought it would be useful to revisit something our guest blogger Michele Fellows, of Fellows and Associates, wrote for us back in July about the results of her firm’s annual salary survey.
For the first time ever, Fellows and Associates’ 2017 survey included questions about workplace discrimination. It asked respondents whether they had encountered discrimination, and if so of what type, over the previous two years, whether directed at themselves or at someone else.
The results were sobering: 43% of respondents had experienced some form of discrimination, on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, parental issues, age, mental or physical health, race or place of origin, marital/civil partnership status, or religious or cultural beliefs.
So discriminatory behaviour is alive and kicking, even in the IP professions. Also worrying was that for many forms of discrimination, higher numbers reported discrimination observed against others than reported discrimination experienced themselves. This to me suggests that discrimination may be going on all around us, the victims themselves reluctant to report it, and the observers perhaps doing less to address it than they should. That makes us all culpable.
It can be difficult to know what to do when you experience inappropriate behaviour at work, whether outright discrimination or merely those subtle forms of harassment – often disguised as camaraderie – that make people feel uncomfortable. As victims and as observers, as peers and as managers, we often feel ill-equipped to tackle such potentially emotive (and sometimes legally fraught) issues. But tackle them we must. Inappropriate behaviour has both a personal and a business cost: unhappy people are not productive; unchecked bullying and harassment erode trust, confidence and efficiency.
Our 1st February workshop, kindly hosted by Kilburn & Strode, aims to offer practical, down to earth guidance on how to tackle such situations with confidence, and stop them escalating into costly grievance or disciplinary procedures. The event is for all IP professionals and their managers, in both large and small organisations and with any level of experience. It will look at the impact of inappropriate behaviour at work; help you to identify the line between “harmless banter” and unacceptable behaviour; and identify practical steps for building truly inclusive teams, where everyone feels comfortable and able to give of their best.
The seminar will be run by Catherine Hamilton of Focal Point Training and Consultancy, who has extensive experience of helping clients to deal with inappropriate behaviour at work. Dominic Houlihan, from the UK IPO’s HR team, will also share his experiences on creating an inclusive working environment and offer advice on best practices to avoid causing upset or embarrassment amongst colleagues. Whether you experience problems yourself, see your team-mates suffer, or hold responsibility for managing groups of people, this is intended to provide a safe environment in which to learn how to improve things in your workplace.
When to discipline, when to dismiss? Insulting and colourful language or aggressive conduct should not be accepted at any workplace. Even the best policies cannot hope to deal with all types of behaviour and some circumstances are so unusual as to have no precedent.