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Plan Program to Prevent Workplace Violence

Dear HR Doctor,

I work in a county agency where people are constantly complaining about poor treatment. There are many grievances, EEO complaints and more. Some supervisors act in an arrogant way like school yard bullies. Do you think these are "unhealthy" symptoms in an organization?


Tired of Complaints


Dear "Tired,"

Your letter raises a very important and very basic point. It lets the "HR Doctor" prescribe an important "treatment" to prevent and mitigate complaints of race and gender discrimination, sexual harassment, threats of violence and other inappropriate conduct.

The treatment was well described by that great County Human Resources Director Aretha Franklin in her song, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." Director Franklin told us that the foundation for successfully managing all human resources liabilities is RESPECT between people.

Most complaints which occupy our time - and the time of our lawyers - stem from perceptions (as much, if not more than, reality). Complainants often feel that they are being treated in an adverse way because of some characteristic unrelated to the needs and requirements of a job, such as race, religion, gender, age or disability. Making judgments like that or ignoring perceptions that decisions are made that way, instead of focusing on the "KSAs" - the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to do a job successfully, is poor public administration.

From the standpoint of the affected person, this sense of inappropriate decision making is a statement of disrespect and a direct pathway to complaints, poor morale and litigation.

We must build into our training programs performance evaluation standards; recognition programs; a continuous dose of reminders about the importance of strong customer relations; and a caring, thoughtful approach to members of the public and other employees. As managers and county officials, we must remember our role model responsibilities and consciously stop any behavior which smacks of arrogance.

Unless we make "respect" a centerpiece of our way of doing business in the county, we are at risk of succumbing to the expense, frustration, waste and loss of opportunities which go along with lawsuits, complaints and threats. Certainly not all cases of inappropriate behaviors at work stem from any one cause (however, a great many do). For a relatively small investment in training and new employee and new supervisor orientation to the county's philosophy, many problems can be avoided or reduced over the long term.

Remember that it is easier, cheaper and more productive to sing "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" than it is to sing "Rescue Me."

Best wishes,

The HR Doctor


(The HR Doctor was written by Phil Rosenberg, director of Human Resources, Broward County, Fla.)


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