Organisations get the behaviour at work they deserve according to delegates at the second Wellness Debate who voted two to one in favour of the resolution that 'dysfunctional behaviour is the responsibility of the organisation rather than the individual'.
The second of this year's debates, organised by wellness consultancy Corporate Heart at the Ironmongers' Hall in the City of London , brought together human resources professionals and a panel of experts on employment law, workplace psychology, bullying and leadership.
"This is not about absolving individuals it is about creating the right climate at work," said Stephen Bevan, head of research at The Work Foundation, who spoke in favour of the motion. "Rather than trying to control dysfunctional behaviour, organisations need to earn 'functional' behaviour." Opposing the motion, Charles Boundy, group legal head of the Random House Group of publishers, said: "The role of the organisation is to empower not to control" but warned against shifting the balance of responsibility too far in their direction. "There are already too many employment laws. What starts as best practice ends up enshrined in law and becomes a legal responsibility," he said. "But wellness can not be imposed."
The debates are set against a backdrop of growing discontent amongst workers in the UK , where more than half of employees have experienced overwork or burnout during the past six months according to a survey by HR consultant Hudson. The union Amicus says 19 million working days are lost every year because of workplace bullying, at a cost to the UK economy of millions of pounds in tribunal payments, legal fees and wasted talent.
"What we set out to understand is how we build connectivity inside business," said Corporate Heart founder Pauline Crawford. "We need to know is it the state of business today that is causing bullying and burnout? Is it the organisation's fault that we are stressed or is it all down to employees to cope with? Where does personal social responsibility meet corporate social responsibility?"
Many employees lack confidence, according to psychologist and panellist Averil Leimon, who advocates "deliberate acts of ruthless kindness at work" to improve morale and productivity. Dysfunctional behaviour can be tackled on many levels says Pauline Crawford. "There are plenty of simple solutions. Allowing people 'duvet days' when they can call in and take the day off, tells them you trust them. As a result you actually cut absenteeism." On the other hand, says Stephen Bevan, "People rebel when there is no other way for them to express their discontent."
"It is time to look further - at what is 'under the skin' of behaviour in business today. If we change our personal behaviour at work alongside collective 'community' behaviour, mutually agreed and sustained, I believe we will find a long term cure,'' Pauline Crawford added.