We were approached by the HR advisors for this large, not for profit organisation, following the results of an internal stress audit, prompted by high absence rates. While much was positive, the key area of concern that emerged from the audit was inter team communication. There appeared to be a real lack of support between peers and, worryingly, many staff felt they had been bullied or harassed by their peers. This was an unusual situation as often claims of bullying are bought against managers rather than colleagues.
The HR team were therefore keen to raise awareness around appropriate behaviour in the workplace, particularly in a team setting and set some guidelines for what is acceptable and unacceptable, in order to ensure the working environment was one based on respect and co operation.
We worked with the HR advisors to devise a workshop based approach to tackling the issues. Key to the approach being successful was enlisting support from the MD. He was hands on from the start and has been instrumental in following up the sessions with HR to drive and support the changes needed.
We took a facilitative approach with the workshops, posing questions to get team members to open up about their experiences and frustrations and discuss the impact of their behaviour on each other.
A key action agreed in the workshops was to share more about each other’s roles and objectives to encourage a more co operative approach within teams, with more regular team meetings being established. Staff also identified that it would be helpful to create more social events, driven by team members to encourage inter team working. In addition, one to one meetings have been established with every team member as standard, across the organisation with a written summary and specific actions produced from each meeting. Staff felt this would help to give them a platform to air any concerns or frustrations, in order that they could be dealt with at an early stage.
In follow up workshops with team members 3 months later, the feedback was tremendously positive. Comments such as “I don’t fire off emails like I used to” and “I have challenged some inappropriate behaviour, it was accepted and hasn’t happened again” show that some fundamental changes have happened to improve working relationships. While there is still work to do, staff feel the one to ones and team meetings have made a big difference to communication.
The HR advisor commented “the reason this has been so successful in tackling a really tricky area is because of the time Focal Point took in understanding the issues and the teams. Because their approach is firmly rooted in looking at the very real day to day issues, people could personally relate to it and see how they needed to change. We are already seeing a big difference in attitude and behaviour and are committed to making sure they last.”