But we enter murky water when it’s not so clear cut. As people, we will all have different shades of perception on those things which are acceptable and those which are unacceptable. Your ‘aggressive’ may be other peoples’ ‘assertive’, and their ‘jokey’ may be someone else’s ‘offensive’. We’ve even had a retail client ask once if they were being fair in raising concerns to a member of staff who was openly destroying their stock (spoiler- from our perspective they were).
Enter the concept of reasonableness. As a team of HR professionals, we spend a lot of time helping organisations work out how fair or just it is to pursue a particular course of action. Anything that is considered unreasonable could leave an employer open to challenge, and this is something we unsurprisingly always like to avoid. So how do you achieve this mystical reasonableness?
So now we're focusing on behaviour, it’s sensible to proactively agree with your staff those expected behaviours in your organisation. This can be done by way of a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ or by a themed document outlining the rules that everyone needs to play by. Often referred to as a code of conduct (Karen wrote a fantastic blog about this recently), this is a good way of agreeing with others in your firm what is tolerated and what is not. This is one of the few HR documents I always advise be as explicit as possible.
Once you’re in a good place proactively, you should then find that most issues fall into the categories of behaviour identified in your code of conduct, helping you to be consistent and confident that you’re being fair. But what if despite all this wonderful proactive work we’re still stuck on whether to address an issue or not?
In more practical Real People terms, this means that no person is an island, so get a second opinion from that hypothetical Clapham omnibus passenger- be it your manager(s), HR, a trusted peer or external support (either by a consultancy or dispute resolving body such as Acas).
Don’t be afraid to bounce ideas off someone if you’re afraid to tackle issues due to a fear of being labelled as unreasonable. The more views you can get, the higher the chance that you’ll pick that reasonable road most travelled.