Employees are your greatest asset but they can also be your biggest concern. Company culture is made or unraveled by those who work there. So if you fail to protect their rights at work, it can often spell disaster for your business.
Dignity is carried within each of us and everyone has dignity at work to begin with. Only until some form of indignity occurs does the implications take effect. This is because it relates to the quality of interaction. If the interactions you’re giving or receiving at work are rude and disrespectful, then the quality is shot.
To define dignity at work we must first define dignity. This can be summed up as ‘a personal sense of worth, value, respect, or esteem that is derived from one’s humanity and individual social position; as well as being treated respectfully by others.’ Therefore, dignity at work combines this feeling with the correct level of ‘diversity and equity, health and safety, merit, equal opportunity or anti-discrimination procedures.’
Dignity at work is the principle of maintaining a healthy, safe and enjoyable place to go about your employment. It can only be achieved once each of these points is met:
As mentioned, many employers don’t take the idea of dignity at work seriously because it’s pre-empted that everyone already knows how to behave, but many also don’t see the potential that having a great dignity at work policy can bring to a business.
We spend over 90,000 hours of our lives at work. It is one of the main places we can achieve fulfilment of our talents and potential, the very things that drive us as humans.
We have a need to make important contributions and developing this results in higher self-respect. Boosting self-worth, in turn, boosts dignity. This means that personal growth within a workforce directly affects dignity at work.
Dignity can also come as feeling part of a whole that is working towards a greater goal together. And what’s a better example of this than an organisation?
Not only is there a link between the level of communication and dignity at work, but it’s an extremely important one.
The quality of interactions, whether positive or negative, will directly affect whether your workplace has a high or low level of dignity.
Indignity often stems from either lack of communication or some form of initial communication that then spirals into more harmful interactions.
Improving the quality of the communication process in the workplace will provide greater levels of respect and therefore dignity as a knock-on effect.
The reason we’ve all either been part of or witnessed dignity at work is that there are hundreds of ways indignity can be at play. Each act falls under discrimination, harassment or victimisation.
The Equality Act of 2010 defines the three notions as follows:
Harassment is any unwanted behaviour that is made for the purpose of violating a person’s dignity or to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.
Harassment covers certain types of discrimination, bullying and victimisation. It includes insults, inappropriate jokes, unnecessary contact, threatening behaviour, ostracism and gossip.
Direct discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably because they possess a certain characteristic, whereas indirect discrimination occurs when a person is disadvantaged by unjustified criteria that are directed at people with certain characteristics.
The characteristics that a person can be discriminated for is age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, race, religion, marriage and maternity.
Victimisation happens when an employee has made or supported a complaint and has been treated badly because of it.
Victimisation is often targeted behaviour. It can include such things as the exclusion of one particular person from work-related tasks or making an environment oppressive or penalising someone, all because they have made a complaint.
As mentioned, there are a myriad of ways harassment, discrimination and victimisation can occur in a workplace, but below are just a few ways each can appear in a specific office setting.
Obviously overworking does tend to occur during busy periods, but if a person is continually being overworked with no time in lieu or recuperation, this is immoral and is considered to go against dignity at work.
This often occurs because a manager is using intimidation and threats to humiliate the recipient, in full knowledge that the person being targeted cannot defend themselves without taking a career risk.
Micromanaging can violate a person’s independence at work and can be seen as interference or a pre-emptive judgement of negative results from their team meaning they feel the need to take control and comment on the colleagues' supposed incompetence.
Absolutely. Most of our working lives occur online these days, which not only means that it can be more prevalent than face-to-face behaviour, but should be considered just as severe.
Online harassment can be harder to detect, however, it can occur across email, instant messaging services, social media and centralized platforms. Derogatory remarks, posting hateful content and using insults are all considered to breach dignity at work and should be monitored closely.
As dignity at work is for the benefit of the entire workforce, it should be in all of the staffs best interests to become responsible for it. To do this, staff should treat others with respect, step in when they see unacceptable behaviour and reporting it to a manager.
While this is the case, it falls on the managers to set the overarching standards and make sure they are kept, not only with their own behaviour, but the behaviour of others. Managers should also ensure that any concerns are dealt with appropriately and according to the dignity at work policy.
Again, dignity at work is for the benefit of every staff member. If everyone is working towards creating a healthy workplace, then it should protect everyone involved.
There are three main ways to make everyone aware of dignity at work.
From the get-go, all staff should know where they stand in up keeping dignity at work. Whether the company’s take on dignity at work is integrated as part of induction training or courteous behaviour is encouraged through consistent communication, staff should never be unsure of how they are expected to behave in your workplace.
Managers should be trained in the many different types of bullying and harassment as well as how to tackle each one. The procedures laid out in the training should be legally compliant with legal framework, such as the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, the Health and Safety Authority’s Code of Practice on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying and the Equality Authority’s Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment at Work.
Each place of work should have your own bespoke dignity at work policy. It is a vital progressive management tool. It should be catered to the type of staff you employ, the type of work and services you provide and whether customers or clients are involved. There are many benefits to producing a dignity at work policy. When indignity is identified, the procedures outlined in the policy can induce more effective action against it, challenging it and putting a stop to any sort of disgrace quickly. By enforcing a pleasant working environment, overall morale is raised, stress is lowered and retention is secured.
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