Now more than ever, it is important that companies today are in tune with and attentive to what behaviors are going on in their workplace. This new workforce is often more casual and cavalier about some behaviors and can tend to cross the line regarding respectful behaviors and not realize it. So, how do you manage them and maintain good working relationships between all ages, genders, races and faiths? 

First, in the foodservice industry, due to the nature of the work, it is easier than at most businesses for employees to get comfortable and even casual about the ways in which they interact with one another at work. They work in teams and often so closely together to take care of a guest’s needs that they ignore the basic courtesies during their interactions with each other and cross over socially acceptable boundaries and workplace norms. As a result, they can do or say almost anything. It’s quite commonplace actually. 

Imagine working next to another person for hours and multiple shifts and having to find things to talk about. It is easy to become comfortable talking about pretty much any subject and situation. I can’t tell you how many times during investigations for harassment that I’ve heard the words… “I was only joking, we were just having fun, or I was just playing around.” It is easy, over time, to assume that conversations can become more casual.

Next, it is my philosophy that you can start the process for establishing a culture right from the start during your new hire orientation and onboarding process. This is where you outline the expectations for a respectful workplace by talking about this topic, setting the framework for acceptable behaviors, establishing your workplace culture and outlining the company’s philosophy for treatment right from the very start—by communicating it verbally.

Here are a few examples of some discussion topics and steps that you can take from the start…

• Have a member of management speak about the culture and philosophy of respect in the workplace.

• Define what harassment, discrimination and a respectful workplace should be and look like.

• Talk about your zero tolerance for prejudices, biases and other social unacceptable behaviors.

• Discuss some examples of unacceptable behaviors and actions that will not be tolerated.

• Explain the steps to be followed when/if someone acts in a disrespectful way or harasses you.

• Talk about the consequences of behaving in a manner that is unacceptable at work.

Finally, the last key component for this process to work is to have your management team on board with the entire process. They must be trained to recognize and embrace the zero tolerance policy for these unacceptable behaviors in the workplace. They must also exemplify the behaviors you expect at work, not ignore situations or behaviors, take action in a timely manner, and treat all situations fairly and equitably so that the intent is clear and consistent. Your managers must also know when to get human resources involved so that all steps are followed and the policy is effectively upheld. 

One of my favorite examples of why harassment, discrimination and/or disrespect will not be tolerated is because it violates the Golden Rule… “Treat others in the way that you’d like to be treated.” But even more impactful today, I tell them that “No one wants to come to work with the fear that they might be singled out, harassed or bullied, because of their beliefs or heritage. No one can work or function productively in an environment like that where you feel unsafe, scared or intimidated.” Bottom line, I tell them, it’s about respect.

HR Question of the month: Please send your HR questions and concerns, or share your thoughts on your human resources challenges via email to the following address. Send input to Your comments, questions or concerns will help determine the direction for my next month’s column and earn you a copy of my book. Include your mailing address when sending your responses.