How to combat 'nuisance behaviour' at work.
Since the shocking story about a well-known Hollywood producer’s brutal behaviour towards an ever-growing number of women in his industry broke several weeks ago, the media has been rife with reports, analysis and further evidence of widespread harassment and abuse in the workplace across many industries. For example, the BBC reported that out of over 1000 people interviewed very recently, 80% of women and 20% of men stated that they had experienced some sort of sexually targeted inappropriate behaviour at work.
Although this may not be a complete surprise to many of us, there is no doubt that sexual harassment – far from being a blast from a less enlightened age -is not only alive and well in 2017, but absolutely rife across many if not all sectors of the workplace. This not only begs the question of how individuals are responding to this behaviour but also raises real concerns about the potentially dire consequences for their careers... not to mention the impact on both their mental and physical wellbeing.
While this article is not about trying to help people overcome the significant implications of serious abuse, my aim is to highlight a wide range of ‘nuisance behaviour’ at work and offer some strategies for how to deal with this.
There is sadly, no doubt that the majority of people have experienced some form of challenging behaviour in their place of work which has had an impact on their well-being, regardless of whether or not it would be classed as sexual harassment. Most of us spend a significant portion of our waking hours at work, and in return for the hard graft have the right to expect that we will be valued, respected and furthermore feel safe in our working environment.
So if you feel that in any way this is being compromised, here are some practical tips to help deal with nuisance or challenging behaviour that may be starting to impact on your ability to enjoy and feel totally secure in your place of work.
1. Project an ‘aura of confidence'. The more you can give off a confident aura, the more this tends to impact on the way others treat you….ideally as someone not to be messed with! This doesn’t necessarily come naturally to a lot of people, but the more work you can do on building your own sense of self-belief … the more confident and strong your inner-self is … the more likely you are to be able to handle the majority of unexpected situations: to stand your ground and clearly communicate your perspective. And if you are going through a period of self-doubt, work at changing your inner voice to “whatever happens I’ll handle it!” This highly effective self-talk was regularly quoted by the late confidence guru Susan Jeffers, and really does work for all sorts of situations!
2. It is your choice how to respond. Whatever the behaviour is that is being directed at you, the realisation that the ball is in your court when choosing how to respond can be very empowering (and a very important lesson I myself learned at the age of 27, which helped me to survive 20 years teaching in challenging secondary schools!) Gauge the situation and as much as possible choose how to respond – this can range from a calm but assertive “I would prefer it if…” to choosing to say nothing at all. Judge the response that you think is right (and not driven by your fear of the situation) – as long as it puts YOU in greater control.
3. Try not to let matters escalate. So many scenarios of nuisance behaviour and harassment in the workplace end up enduring and escalating if they are left unchecked – either because the victim of this behaviour is hoping that by doing nothing it will eventually stop (and doesn’t want to cause a fuss) and/or is intimidated by the perpetrator and too scared to challenge their behaviour for fear of making matters worse or even losing their job. This is not a nice situation for anyone, but doesn’t take away the necessity of ‘biting the bullet’ and doing what you can to nip this behaviour in the bud as quickly as possible. This way you are making your feelings clear, you are creating an opportunity for this person to change their behaviour, and vastly increasing the chances of the behaviour stopping altogether. (Most ‘aggravators’ only persist with their behaviour because they think they can get away with it!)
4. Seek support. Please do not under any circumstances experience this behaviour on your own. Talk to friends, supportive colleagues, and very importantly - where necessary - people of influence. The more you do this in the spirit of trying to find a solution and improve your day to day working existence, the more genuine support and advice you will get … and the less likely there will be a long-term negative impact. In any case, any unpleasant situation that is continuing to impact on the well being of an individual should always be reported, and not left alone where the situation can both worsen and allow the perpetrator to find other people to target.
5. And if all else fails? If you have tried all of the above and the situation is still an issue, be prepared to walk away in the knowledge that you have given it your best shot (and have undoubtedly gone through a great deal of unwanted stress in the process). If you have exhausted all avenues, have the courage to walk away with your head held high. Learn from this experience, share it with others and anticipate that better things will be round the corner….