Creating a safe workplace

Q: The #Me Too thing that is happening in the United States is making me nervous.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that it is great that so many people are speaking out and taking their abusers to task. My problem is that I do not know where it stops.

I am the manager-owner of a small but successful business on the Prairies. At last count, I had 43 full-time staff and somewhere between 20 and 30 part-time employees. Most of my staff are women.

I grew up in a crude and rough farmhouse. At best, I would have to admit that I am a little rough around the edges. Some people probably find me to be intimidating.

I am not altogether sure about this. I am just wondering if you have any thoughts that might help me figure this thing out.

A: I would like to congratulate you for taking the #Me Too movement to heart. I hope that you will monitor yourself to some extent and try to get rid of some of those moments when you are likely to be the most intimidating.

Of course, you know and I know that you are going to slip a lot of the time. You will likely find yourself regretting something you did that was offensive to someone else. A simple apology works wonders here.

If you are really serious about changing your shop into a work-safe environment, listen to your staff. They are the ones who know best when you have been offensive and they are the ones who can help you create a better setting for everyone. The problem you have is that many of your staff are likely either too shy or too easily intimidated to step up to let you know when you are out of line. The unfortunate irony is that these are very often the people who are most likely to benefit from a more accepting and safer working environment.

You might consider having a general meeting with all of your employees. Let them know that you are serious about making a change and ask them to join with you in the cause. You want to hear from them. And if it means that someone there needs to have a little support from someone else on staff, then so be it. She can bring a colleague with her into an open discussion with you.

My only caution for you throughout all of this is to make sure that she who has been offended is she who makes the complaint. Don’t let someone else speak for her. You do not want to build a setting where people are tattling on each other. That would likely undo all of the good you are trying to build in your new approach to your staff.

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