After a bullying or harassment incident in your workplace, morale and relationships usually need some attention. The employees involved in the incident are likely to feel vulnerable or uncomfortable with each other. The tension has often spread to other members of the team – those who have been made aware of the issue, those who have been witnesses, and those who simply cannot help taking sides.
As an employer, you need to bring some peace and stability back to the workplace. This is sometimes referred to as “workplace restoration” or the re-establishment of harmonious working relationships between the employees involved in the incident and more broadly, within the team, group or unit. The goals of workplace restoration include:
- Directly addressing the harm to the relationship between those directly involved and seeking to restore that relationship.
- Rebuilding of relationships and repairing emotional harms within the larger team.
- Developing a forward-looking plan, which can be created by and implemented by the those involved.
As a manager or HR professional, you will need to help steer this process, and keep it moving forward to establish an environment of productivity and well-being and to re-integrate both or all of those involved in the incident back into the workplace. There are several methods to achieve this:
- One-on-one coaching sessions to help those involved in the incident understand their rights and responsibilities, and the expectations of their employer going forward.
- An informal mediation process which allows them to speak directly to each other about their experiences relating to the conflict and to work together to find ways to improve their working relationship.
- Counseling, training or education for those involved.
- A broad review of the organization’s systems, which may also reveal root causes of the conflict.
- Group interventions planned and delivered by an experienced restoration/ reconciliation facilitator.
Which approach you take depends on the specifics of the complaint, the investigation, the outcome and the nature of your organization. Keep in mind that restoring the workplace is not a “quick fix” and that deeply rooted problems or fiercely held employee beliefs and perceptions will be hard to break.
Check in frequently and “take the temperature” of the team to make sure that harmonious working relationships have been re-established, and that the steps you took are continuing to work. With effective restoration work, you can look forward to growth and learning that lead to better ways of working and relating with each other – a healthy place where people want to go to work!
Your Engaged HR Assignment:
Does your workplace have a wellness focus that includes emotional safety and well-being? Your Employee Handbook is a great place to incorporate some language about a “respectful workplace,” language that will serve you well when supporting everyone to work together harmoniously. Don’t forget – we are here help!