Employees need options for resolving workplace conflict. An internal workplace review of the Calgary Police Service revealing claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment and bullying has been released recently by Post Media. Though three years old, this report has launched an important public discussion which needs a much broader focus than the Calgary Police Service which has been working hard to institute changes.
“It’s clear this culture exists…” Marlene Hope, a former Calgary Police Officer is quoted in Yolande Cole’s Calgary Herald article of October 26. Cole’s article strikes a chord. The Calgary Police Service is not alone as an organization which struggles with shifting an unwanted culture. Sexual harassment allegations can have a significant impact on organizational culture and reputation. Organizations do try a number of different ways to address it, such as for example a whistle-blowing line. Ultimately though it is how the complaints are handled that makes the difference.
What is critical is that employees in any organization have choices and avenues they trust to turn to when they believe they are being treated unfairly. One such option that has helped many organizations is the organizational ombudsman, an office which when set up well, is independent, impartial, and has unfettered access up and down the width and breath of the organization. Such an office can provide an informal, confidential, and impartial avenue for employees to raise their complaints and seek resolution through a fair and transparent process. An office with such access can also provide the all-important service of oversight in the organization.
We need to continue this conversation in Canada on a broader scope. Each time I read an article like this, I am reminded that we have a long way to go in structuring organizations with conflict management systems which provide employees with the support they deserve and they need. Very few organizations have invested in the Ombuds function, yet it can have a clear bottom-line impact and support organizations who are focusing on providing a psychologically healthy workplace.
I appreciate Cole’s article and I do hope it continues to foster this discussion. You can find further comments about why employees don’t come forward here and information about organizational ombuds functions here.