There’s a very thin line between management rights and psychological harassment when it comes to leading a team effectively. How to be a good manager without stepping over the line?
Many policies and laws require organizations to protect the victims of abuse. Employees who feel violated must have access to several forums that allow them to denounce abusive situations. How to act in this quasi-legal context?
“It is increasingly common for managers, who are simply doing their jobs, to be wrongfully accused of harassment,” said Jacques Malenfant, CIRC, MAP, consultant specializing in organizational development, labour management relations and human ressources. “It is something we have encountered in many of the harassment investigations we have conducted. This is often due to a general misunderstanding of the concept of harassment.”
Management rights : Where is the line drawn?
Most professional working conditions will include constraints and difficulties, which we find normal and reasonable: a normal exercise of management rights, labour or interpersonal disputes, work-related stress, being assigned unwanted work, performance reviews, absence reviews and management, negative performance evaluations, disciplinary measures.
It becomes harassment in the following cases: abuse of power, excessive surveillance, shouting, verbal or physical violence, intimidation, malicious rumours, being discredited or destabilized.
The importance of managerial bravery
“Emotional intelligence and management capabilities are not a given for all managers,” says Malenfant. “Coaching can be an effective way of allowing managers to work on these essential skills, which are not so easy to acquire.”
The key elements of a healthy working relationship are undeniably communication and transparency. A good manager knows his or her rights, and in this manner, can avoid falling into the trap that is a lack of managerial courage. “Some managers become too cautious or complacent when it comes to unacceptable behaviours that threaten performance and efficiency,” he adds.
Here’s some practical advice for managers:
- Clearly communicate expectations and give feedback that is encouraging and which recognizes good behaviour;
- Discourage inappropriate behaviour by reprimanding those that need it, if necessary, while remaining human and exercising judgment;
- Impose appropriate sanctions without being excessive, depending on the seriousness of the situation;
- Manage your calendar and time in order to avoid problems from accumulating;
- Act now by following up, to avoid recurrence and carelessness;
- Systematically address all problem situations, deciding each time whether it is necessary to act;
- Prevent and proactively take action before situations escalate.
“It is essential to keep track and document all performance evaluations. This avoids removing disciplinary measures from the employee’s file, even if there has been a lot water under the bridge since then,” says Malenfant. The key words that should be part of a good managing team: flexibility, understanding, anticipation and vigilance!
“Any good manager should be able to keep his or her employees safe and rely on a mentor, or, what I like to call a list of sages they can consult before making a difficult decision,” concludes Jacques Malenfant.