Network - Spring 2011 - (Page 24)

O Feature Bad Behaviour By Richard Hart Accommodating Disability, not A lmost every manager has a story to tell about one disruptive employee – the one who gets involved in every workplace drama. Usually, the manager eventually falls back on references to the employee’s personality, mental health or emotional state. In other words, the employee’s behaviour gets explained in terms of what might be called “intra-personal factors,” which can create a problem. This is because the issues around accommodation are never more complex than when a potential mental health problem appears alongside disruptive workplace behaviour. Employers who use the duty to accommodate as justification for ignoring an employee’s problematic behaviour set themselves up for trouble. Co-workers end up feeling angry and upset towards their colleague. A kind of group mentality can emerge among disgruntled teammates about the “problem person.” People eventually resent management for “standing by and doing nothing.” Conflict escalates in the group. If left unaddressed for long periods of time, escalating cycles of reactive behaviour become evident, typically culminating in significant incidents and formal proceedings. How can employers avoid these problems? What must an employer do to comply with the legal obligations and the moral imperatives of creating open, accessible workplaces, while also ensuring that the workforce functions at a high level? Here are a number of principles to keep in mind from a conflict management perspective: Don’t Confuse Bad Behaviour with a Disability The law requires that we accommodate disabilities precisely because the disabled person has no choice or control over the disability. No one decides to have a disability. Disruptive workplace behaviour, on the other hand, is a choice – a decision. People engage in bad behaviour in the workplace because it accomplishes something. Yelling loudly and gesturing erratically may be a way of getting co-workers to “tow the line,” or “back off.” Sighing and rolling eyes 24 O www.hria.ca at a supervisor may simply be satisfying the objective of expressing frustration and resentment. No matter what the behaviour, it is ultimately goal-oriented and planned. This becomes obvious when we consider that many people who suffer from personality disorders, mental health issues, and emotional instability don’t engage in problematic behaviour in the workplace. Even those who do, don’t do it all the time. And, when they do, they tend to do so only in specific contexts – that is, in particular situations, at particular times, or with particular individuals present. For instance, the person who yells tends not to do that in front of superiors who can and will hold them accountable. Contrast that with the indiscriminate swearing of a person who suffers Tourette Syndrome. Bad Decisions Do Not Equal “Bad Person” We often explain people’s decisions to engage in bad behaviour in terms of intrapersonal (“within me”) factors such as personality, mental health and emotional stability. Yet this simplistic explanation ignores the extent to NETWORK O Spring 2011 http://www.hria.ca

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Network - Spring 2011

Network - Spring 2011
Contents
HRIA President’s Message
Legal Precedents Clarify Accommodation Procedure
Thank You!
Accommodation: Have a Plan and Stick to It
Disability Management and Duty to Accommodate: The Need for Good Documentation
Accommodating Disability, Not Bad Behaviour
Common “Mistakes” In Accommodation and How to Avoid Them
Case Studies: Managing Workplace Back and Neck Injuries
Accommodating Addictions in the Workplace
Duty to Accommodate – Employee Responsibilities
The Separation of Church and Work
When to Cut Sick Staff Off
The HR Office
Index of Advertisers

Network - Spring 2011

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