Preventing undesirable behaviour at work: it’s in your hands

A recent study conducted by Mensura shows that 34% of Belgian employees have had to deal with sexual misconduct, harassment, discrimination or aggression one or more times in the past year. This is alarming, as such undesirable behaviour threatens the well-being of employees. Luckily, as an employer you are not powerless, quite the opposite.

A survey of over 10,000 employees about psychosocial factors at work has shown that more than a third of them had been the victim of undesirable behaviour in the past year. This is alarming since any form of misconduct has a significant negative impact on the mental and physical well-being of your employees, and thus on the efficiency of your company.

Main findings of the study

The figures show that aggression, physical or verbal, is the most common form of undesirable behaviour at work. About 25% of the respondents were affected in that way in the past year. 13% had to face bullying or discrimination, and 2% sexual harassment.

Furthermore, the study shows that employees younger than 25 are the least often victims of undesirable behaviour (27%). The 45-54 years age group scores highest (38%). And women (37%) usually experience this kind of behaviour more often than men (32%).

What can you do as an employer?

Undesirable behaviour remains one of the most difficult psychosocial issues to resolve in the workplace. And the figures don’t lie: preventive measures are urgently needed. You may want to base your efforts on the following points:

  • Establish clarity about the accepted and expected behaviour in your company. For example, set up a code of conduct based on your corporate values and socially accepted limits.
  • If you want to be really thorough, you should first carry out a psychosocial risk analysis. This helps you identify all the possible risks.
  • Aim to create a positive working environment with respectful working relationships, allowing undesirable behaviour to be discussed.
  • Seek the support of an external prevention advisor (psychosocial aspects) or appoint a person of trust in your company. This makes sure your employees always have someone they can approach to tell their story.

How can your employees contribute?

Your employees also have a key role to play in the prevention of undesirable behaviour. Ideally, each individual should be sufficiently assertive to set his or her own limits. This infographic on the DESC method, an assertive and impactful way to convey needs and feelings, may help them in this respect.

Give them these tips to that end:

  • Take feelings of irritation, fear or discomfort seriously. It is a signal that a person’s boundary has been crossed.
  • Remember: people are different. Everyone has the right not to tolerate a particular behaviour, even if someone else accepts that behaviour.
  • Clearly indicate what is unacceptable:
    • Identify the unwanted behaviour and ask the perpetrator to stop it. Use short, powerful sentences.
    • Be direct in the way you convey your disapproval. Sighs, an angry or puzzled look, joking to defuse the situation... are ambiguous ways to say No.
    • Match your body language to your words: don’t smile, maintain eye contact and keep your head up high.
    • React in a way that is commensurate with the situation: not too aggressively, but not too friendly either. Be aware that friendliness only works on people who are willing to respect feelings (and personal boundaries).
  • Even if you are not personally facing undesirable behaviour, you can help reduce it. Express your support for those who are affected by it or report a colleague who misbehaves.

Need help with your prevention policy for psychosocial risks?

Combating undesirable behaviour at work is crucial if you want to protect the psychosocial well-being and physical integrity of all employees. Mensura will be happy to assist you. Don’t hesitate to contact us at psychosociale-aspecten@mensura.be.