News & Events

Respectful Workplace Is Everyone's Responsibility

Posted April 03, 2019 by

A collaborative perspective on how to navigate workplace conflict using empathy and respect.

By Natasha Tony - Elevate Inclusion Strategies

We all have stories of workplaces that we would refer to as toxic or poisoned. Workplaces pervasive in miscommunication and adversarial styles. We are witness to the negative consequences of these offensive environments on our psychosocial health.

It is a proven fact that a workplace in constant conflict impacts us emotionally, physically, spiritually and socially. The affects can range from anxiety, fatigue, increased sense of vulnerability, loss of confidence and social isolation. Employers that choose not to put the mandatory measures in place to address conflict in a meaningful way often feel the ramifications, such as a public reputation as an unsafe employer, high staff turnover, absenteeism, costly grievances and depleted resources.

A workplace where workers, supervisors and employers continue to perpetuate conflict because there are no clear codes of conduct and lack of policy enforcement comes at a price that not only has a dollar amount but has impacts on the overall health of an organization.

Conflict has many styles and expressions, including interpersonal, internal, work style, cultural and leadership. What if we viewed conflict as normal and understood that these interpersonal or group dynamics can be directed towards positive and creative change? Conflict viewed as a challenge to be solved allows for the cultural shift many organizations are exploring in this era of accountability.

Sure, conflict can be simple at times or more complex in nature in other instances. The pathway to resolution often means we need to enter the uncomfortable place we experience as conflict and stay present. This can seem counterintuitive for many of us in the workplace because the stakes feel too high, the power dynamics are ubiquitous, and fear of reprisal exists. While there are some conflicts that will resolve on their own, knowing which conflicts to get involved in is our way of being mindful of our own unique and singular responsibility.

While the employer has a responsibility to have a workplace free from discrimination, bullying & harassment, supervisors and workers are also accountable for creating and maintaining a psychologically safe work environment.

More and more entertainment industry employers and unions are taking the cooperative approach, incorporating training, policies and restorative values with employees, thus creating the foundation of respectful workplaces.  Empowering workers at all levels to use respect and empathy in addressing workplace conflict is the cultural shift many believe is the answer to obtaining effective communication, higher productivity and a psychologically healthy workplace.

The following 5 mindful tools can be used when we find ourselves navigating through inevitable conflicts in the workplace: 

  • Let go of the need to be right; shifting our self-righteousness to openness allows us to focus on ways we can get our needs met.
  • Listen genuinely, including listening to things we may disagree with.
  • Shifting our judgement to curiosity in order to self-manage and respond non-defensively.
  • With an awareness of our own perceptions and those of others, we can be assertive in creating space in the discussion to learn the point of view of others and be clear on sharing our own point of view.
  • Focusing on the workplace relationships with a motivation to build commonalities allows everyone to recognize and work with differences.

Shifting workplace culture means achieving a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization's success. Let’s keep the momentum going in creating opportunities to identify, address and put measures in place that will build a positive framework for those of us that work in the entertainment industry.

Natasha Tony is a certified Psychological Health & Safety Advisor who specializes in conflict resolution and labour relations.  Click here to learn more about Natasha Tony.