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Archive for May 2015

Tackling disrespect in the workplace

Tackling issues like a disrespectful workplace is tough enough in a magazine story. It’s so much worse to hear about coworkers and colleagues across the province who are experiencing harassment, bullying and general disrespect in real life. Even worse are the situations leading to health concerns and people being fired without cause. I believe we all learn better behaviour in kindergarten, yet for some reason those solid lessons are being ignored in the workplace.

It used to be elections were jokingly referred to as the “silly season” due to the specific pressures and issues that arise as candidates lobby for positions. Now it seems that instead of just dealing with the the silly season, local government managers are dreading the months following elections as newly elected officials flex their muscles and make knee-jerk decisions that affect careers and impact people personally and professionally. There also appears to be a growing sentiment in the community that citizens are entitled to rant at and insult government employees. It’s wrong and it should not be ignored or accepted.

Maybe all BC municipalities will need to adopt a bylaw like the one recently approved in Taber, AB, which includes a $75 fine for spitting in public and a $150 penalty for yelling, screaming or swearing in a public place. Maybe there could be an extra fine when the spitting and yelling is directed at local government employees. Maybe just a few people taking a stand, and flexing their muscles using their legal rights will help shift this tide.

A shift of some kind is certainly needed. Everyone in local government knows that politics can make job security for managers a bit dicey at times, but the truly disrespectful work place scenarios seem to be on the rise. When we did the first Exchange story on bullying (December 2010: When the Bully is Your Boss), we used experiences shared by retired local government managers. We wanted to provide tools just in case the stories and related advice would be helpful. In many ways, it was alarming when the LGMA office staff received numerous calls from people across the province who thought we had somehow heard about what they were going through and wrote the story about them.

In the Spring 2015 edition, we pulled from news coverage about municipalities in the US and general experiences from the past. But I again suspect that we will hear from local government managers who think the story is about them. It’s not. But sadly, it if it feels familiar, it’s likely because this is happening too often in our communities.

If you’re experiencing a tough time due to a disrespectful workplace – whether it’s due to the way your citizens treat you, or elected officials or colleagues – I hope that the advice from experts in this edition helps, as well as the resources and tips provided. I also believe that there is a lot of support available through the LGMA and your network of friends and colleagues. I hope you reach out for help when you need it, and reach out to offer help when you see others in need.

It’s somewhat reassuring to know that there is some progress towards building respectful, healthy workplace standards in larger organizations in the private sector, because even if local governments have a way to go, the lessons learned and positive examples available will provide a guide to success.