Welcome to Speakfully Insider, a weekly series featuring thought leaders on important topics surrounding workplace mistreatment, company culture, workplace safety, social justice and more.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Alexandra Levit, and I’m the author of Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future as well as a human capital futurist and consultant and managing partner of organizational development firm PeopleResults.
In your opinion, what comprises workplace mistreatment?
In my opinion, workplace mistreatment occurs when employer or employee expectations of another person exceed what is reasonable, or when the behavior of an employer or employee is such that another person feels uncomfortable.
How would you describe workplace issues involving mistreatment decades ago to the current environment?
Well, during the industrial revolution through the mid-20th century, workplace mistreatment mostly involved poor physical working conditions including unsafe environments and long hours. Today, however, mistreatment is more likely to be psychological in nature. Employees may not feel emotionally secure, valued, and supported in their jobs, and abuse like sexual harassment and bullying may be more subtle.
How may general workplace mistreatment effect the cultural dynamic of an organization.
It poisons a culture because it diminishes psychological safety. People aren’t free to do their best work and take appropriate risks because they are too worried about surviving to the next day. When you’re afraid your boss or colleagues will turn on you, it’s difficult to trust and rely on them to collaborate.
In your opinion, what attributes to the growing proportion of workplace mistreatment cases becoming public?
In my opinion, it’s social media. People might have wanted to speak out more before, but they didn’t have a vehicle. You might take an issue to HR, but that’s usually where it would stay. Now, all it takes is a single voice online and others will be emboldened to share their own similar experiences.
What steps do you believe will help in making workplace mistreatment and fear of retaliation a thing of the past?
Every organization needs to outline specific expectations regarding appropriate work behavior and continually reinforce these. Everyone should be held to the same standards, and abusive behavior of any kind should not be tolerated. By sweeping issues under the rug because we are afraid of retaliation or other negative consequences, we send the message that mistreatment is just the way of the world.
If you could sit down with a historical figure to discuss creating a healthier workplace environment, who would it be, what would you discuss, and why?
Buddha, of course. His wisdom around how to treat other people, how to achieve calm and peaceful life satisfaction, and how to let go of things you can’t control are highly relevant to this day. I think I’d ask him how we should psychologically cope with the current pandemic and how we can rise above the current polarized political landscape to be stronger human beings.