Peter Cullen is currently the author of the Career Doctor articles appearing in the Institute of Managers and Leaders publication named Leadership Matters. The columns on this page have appeared in Leadership Matters. Peter also wrote a weekly column on Workplace Behaviour for the Courier Mail in Queensland. The ebook containing the Courier Mail articles is a free download.

What Should You Do When A Manager Treats Staff Badly?

Most companies have codes of conduct or guidelines covering employee responsibilities and proper practices within the workplace. This may include types of acceptable behaviour, government legislation, reporting protocols and possibly behaviours agreed to by employees. They may also have policies and procedures for people to follow.

This sounds pretty straightforward. Not so.

I am constantly amazed at how few people know there is a code of conduct in their workplace, and those who do know a code exists still have little idea of what’s actually in it.

Many people will admit to signing off as having read and understood the code (say, while completing their employment documentation) without having read it.

To combat this lack of interest, some companies conduct annual code of conduct questionnaires to stimulate awareness of its content. This may reflect employee levels of knowledge of the document, however it does nothing to measure its functional application in the workplace.

What should you do?

Let’s say you have the courage to speak up. How should you approach your manager?

Firstly, brush up on your knowledge and understanding of your organisation’s code of conduct to ascertain where breaches may be occurring. Take accurate notes of breaches that you can use as factual evidence in a discussion. Formulate a plan of how you are going to approach the discussion, which should be based purely on the manager’s behaviour and should not be personal. Some points to consider are:

  • What is the key message you are trying to get across?
  • What are your reasons for this discussion?
  • What might their response be?

Then arrange a meeting time to speak directly with your manager to talk about your observations in an open and honest way.

If this fails to gain traction, then your next port of call is an appointment with HR. This is when a good HR person or team are worth their weight in gold. If not, then you may wish to consider your employment options.

Six months ago we won a large contract. This has greatly increased the pressure on our managers to get results. Managers are now treating junior staff appallingly to get the work done. What should I do?

People need to remember, reference and use the content in the code of conduct in their workplace. The code of conduct should be a living, breathing document that creates fairness, consistency and equity with everyone in the workplace. Senior leaders should be role models as responsible, ethical and supportive people.

It’s every junior and senior employee’s responsibility to know and live their code of conduct, as well as company policies and procedures, to ensure they are consistently adhered to. When this is the norm, we will need less courage.

Peter Cullen is an AIM facilitator who teaches AIM’s “Manage People, Performance and Business Effectively” courses. Each three-day program engages participants in developing and implementing their capabilities as managers and leaders. Click here to learn more about AIM courses.