Category Archives: Diversity/Bullying and Harassment

Personality: yours for life or can it be changed?

Recently I was involved in a discussion where we were talking about behaviours at work, and the issue of personality arose. Some would argue that you can’t change your personality, and the way you behave (for instance, in the workplace) is down to your personality and also perhaps to do with the chemical make-up of your brain.

Obviously being in HR, I would protest this- arguing that we are all in control of our own behaviours and that this is something that we can change. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of psychotherapy (treatment for emotional and psychological problems where a person talks with a mental health professional) that helps a person to change unhelpful or unhealthy thinking habits, feelings and behaviours (Source: Better Health Channel).

The core philosophy of CBT is that thoughts, feelings and behaviours combine to influence a person’s quality of life.


It is said that your thoughts influence how you feel and those feelings then impact on how you behave or react. For example, a situation at work (stimulus) occurs where someone criticises something you have done. You could potentially be thinking:

I’m so angry!!!
She’s always picking on me!
She has no idea what she is talking about!
He was really harsh in the way he said that
Perhaps he’s right; maybe I could improve on XX…
I’m glad that I got that feedback

Depending on the way that you think, this can impact on how you feel about the whole situation and this will dictate your response.

Recently however some have argued to me that if your personality is to react in a certain way, then this is beyond your control and just a part of who you are.

So I went looking for some research on this and found a great article: Sherin, J. and Caiger, L. 2004, ‘Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy: A Behavioural Change Model for Executive Coaching’, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol. 56, No. 4, pp. 225-233.

Here is a key excerpt:

REBT resulted from Ellis’s objective to better understand which specific features of personality caused people to maintain dysfunctional behavioural patterns (Ellis, 1994). Drawing on both Stoic and Adlerian philosophy, he argued that personality was best defined by how people interpret and respond to their environment. He contended that an individual’s emotional and behavioural reactions are determined solely by his or her interpretations of events, not by the events themselves (Neenan & Dryden, 2000).

So the research suggests again that change in behaviour is possible and that personality is not a get-out-of-gaol-free pass for people who react to situations in a certain way. Now the task is to convince them that…

Ellis, A. (1994). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy. New York: Birch Lane.
Neenan, M., & Dryden, W. (2000). Essential rational emotive behaviour therapy. London: Whurr.


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Filed under Change Management, Diversity/Bullying and Harassment, Performance Management, Values

Some ideas from the Change Blog

Recently, HR Daily featured an article on workplace harassment where claimant Christina Rich received an undisclosed multi-million dollar settlement from Pricewaterhouse Coopers. This was as a result of sexual harassment and victimisation in PwC’s ‘boys club’ environment.

I myself have heard my fair share of poor behaviour in the workplace, from my own experiences to those of friends, colleagues and family members. When I was younger and working at a supermarket I had a manager who used to throw things, yell and swear at staff. When we approached the Store Manager she said that we should be understanding because that’s the way his manager treated him and he didn’t know any better.

Whilst working at another retail store, some team members were involved in an altercation with my brother that resulted in him being hospitalised, a fractured eye socket and having a metal plate put in his face. When I requested not to work with the alleged person as the case was going to court, I was told to get over it by the Store Manager and staff in Head Office. More recently, a friend was told by her employer that they could not afford to pay her anymore due to the GFC. She is currently being underpaid quite a few dollars per hour according to the award wage.


Perhaps these experiences are what led me to work in HR. To look after people, but also to make things more effective.

If we think about cultural change in an organisation, it relates back to what I was talking about yesterday- it starts with changing the way an individual thinks. Now we’ve established that this is a difficult task and one which comes down to the old story about leading a horse to water. Sometimes you get to the point where you’d rather drown the horse than trying to get it to drink water!

Then this morning I came across the Change Blog and felt a little inspired reading a few of the articles. I’m hoping it might give me a few ideas and encourage others along to make personal change.

Here is an excerpt from the blog if you are interested:
Can we change? Yes we can.
Hi, my name is Peter and welcome to my corner of cyberspace.
I started blogging in 2007 to share my personal story of change. To cut a long story short, I know what it is like to be depressed and drifting through life without purpose. My wake up call came in 2006 when I received the unexpected news I was to be a father. This news was the catalyst for me getting my life in order, and these days I am happy to report that life is great.

He doesn’t profess to know all the answers, but it is refreshing to hear someone speak of their personal experiences and he has some pretty good guest posts as well. He talks about why self-awareness is so important to personal growth, health and fitness, career and life- so it’s a holistic approach. If you have some spare time, check it out or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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Filed under Change Management, Diversity/Bullying and Harassment

Contingent workers more likely to suffer mental illness and be harassed

I was reading an article this morning on Science Daily (HT @punkrockHR) which says that according to research by to be presented at the American Sociological Association, employees who are hired as temps, casuals, on contract or even fixed term positions (so jobs that aren’t secure or stable) are at risk for increased mental health problems.

Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, a medical sociologist at McGill University and the study’s primary investigator says that “This research shows that temporary work strains employee mental health, as contingent workers report more symptoms of depression and psychological distress than similarly employed workers who are not in these fixed-term positions.”

This is an important factor for employers in Australia to consider as we rely on the contingent workforce to meet the needs of the business.


According to the ABS there were 8.3 million employees in 2007, and one in four (2.1 million) were casuals. Women accounted for over half (56%) of all casuals. Casuals also tended to be young. Two-fifths of casuals were aged 15-24 years compared with 14% of other employees.

Additionally, in October 1997 in NSW, an estimated 685,000 persons were employed in their main job on a part-time, casual or temporary basis, this being 25% of all employed persons in NSW. Of the 685,000 persons, 33% were employed on a regular casual basis, followed by 23% employed as permanent part-time workers and 22% employed on a casual full-time basis.

Since 1991 there has been a 50% increase in the number of persons employed in their main job on a part-time, casual or temporary basis, from 455,200 persons in 1991 to 685,000 in 1997. While the numbers employed in this type of work have risen in all categories, most of the rise has been in casual full-time employment, from 14,400 in 1991 to 147,900 in 1997.

Even worse still, a Melbourne University study has found that women employed in casual and contract jobs are up to ten times more likely to experience unwanted sexual advances than those in permanent full time positions.

“Our study shows that 79 per cent of those who experience unwanted sexual advances at work are women,” Associate Professor LaMontagne says.

“People who are employed in casual jobs are about five times more likely to be subjected to unwanted sexual advances.”

“The research also shows that people in contract positions are about ten times more likely to be sexually harassed at work,” Associate Professor LaMontagne says.

Victorian Health Promotion Foundation CEO Todd Harper says: “Not only are women more likely to experience sexual harassment but females make up bigger proportions of industries which use more casual and contract labour.”

Sounds like these issues are real for our contingent workforce, and something that I don’t think we place as much focus on in Australia. Is this an issue for your workforce and what are you doing about it?

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Filed under Diversity/Bullying and Harassment, Employee Engagement

Do you Google potential employees?

With the rise of sites like facebook, MySpace and twitter people are essentially creating a permanent digital footprint for themselves which is able to be viewed by almost anyone. In adjusting your privacy settings, you can protect some of your content but realistically it’s not that hard to view photos, videos and conversations between people, and there is no eraser on the internet.

What does this have to do with HR?

Many organisations are currently using the internet to find out more about their potential employees. Some companies are ‘googling’ their names, or trying to access their facebook or MySpace accounts.


If we think about anti-discrimination legislation in NSW for example, you cannot unfairly because of your sex, race, age, marital status; or if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, homosexual, disabled, transgender or a carer. You also can’t be discriminated against because of the company you keep including relatives, friends or work colleagues.

If employers are able to freely search for you on the web, they can find out about your personal relationships such as marital status (or in some cases if you are homosexual or transgender), they could look up where you live and your house via google maps, they could find out if you are pregnant via status updates on facebook or twitter and they can absolutely make judgements about the types of people you associate with. All of this fall under categories which employers can not discriminate against.

However, an article came out today (HT @trib) from Smart Company where Harmers Workplace Lawyers state that employers must be aware of legal obligations under the Privacy Act, and employee rights under the new Fair Work legislation, because “Whenever an employer or recruiter collects personal background information on a candidate, that action triggers a raft of legal obligations under the Privacy Act. Those obligations include that an employer must inform the candidate that they have gathered personal information as well as explain the purpose for which the information was gathered and to whom it may be disclosed.”

While we in HR want to know as much about a person before we hire them, we have to make a careful distinction between what information we need to make a judgement about their on-the-job performance. I’ve known quite a few people who had to pull down blogs and protect their updates on twitter because it was suggested to them when going for a promotion or new job.

Personally, I think my social media record indicates who I am and although I wouldn’t really place anything on there that I believe would impact upon my job prospects- at the same time I wouldn’t want to work somewhere that wouldn’t hire because I like to have fun on the weekends. In saying that, I guess employers could look you up without you even knowing.

What are your thoughts?

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Filed under Diversity/Bullying and Harassment, Recruitment

Bullying and Harassment; is it an issue in Australia?

As HR peeps we should all know what bullying and harassment is, and given that we regularly present to our clients on what it is and what to do; is it still a major concern for organisations?

Unfortunately, Yes.

According to a survey by
• 74% Australian workers say they have been bullied at work
• Of those bullied, 65 per cent said they were intimidated, threatened and verbally abused by either a colleague or manager.
• 57 per cent reported that they currently work with someone they considered to be a bully
• Nearly one third claim to have been sexually harassed
• 74 per cent of sexual harassment cases went unreported, often because workers feared the impact it would have on their job.

sexual harassment

Unbelievable right? Who knew so many people were facing bullies everyday at work. When we think about bullies we often think about physical harm, but verbal abuse is just as serious.

A few years ago Redinald David Mowat became the first person in Victoria to be convicted of a bullying charge that did not involve physical violence. He worked as a radio announcer of Ballarat station 3BA until he was sacked after allegations of attacks on up to six people.

In November 2002, Mowat allegedly said to a co-worker: “Fair dinkum, you’re f—in’ useless . . . you’re just f—in’ me around.” He then said: “I will take you down the back and f—in’ smash you, I will.”
He also slapped and grabbed co-workers and plead guilty to one count of willfully placing at risk the health of persons in the workplace through physical abuse. Read the whole article.

More recently, a woman was awarded $466,000 in damages after being sexually harassed and then terminated for phoney reasons.

You can view the case yourself, but here are some of the allegations:

In early April 2005, Mr A Hickinbotham commented to her in the workplace, in the presence of others, that she had “two good assets” whilst staring at her breasts.

In May 2005, the third respondent Mark Flynn, another sales consultant employed by ESA, sent her three unsolicited emails and a number of SMS text messages inviting her to have a sexual relationship, which humiliated and shocked her. Ms Poniatowska reported that conduct to her supervisor Ms Sharrad. No action was taken and Ms Sharrad commented to her “what do you expect with a face like yours?”

In June 2005, Mr Lotito sent Ms Poniatowska a coarse MMS picture message on her mobile telephone depicting a woman giving a man oral sex and a text message “U have 2 b better” and in June or July 2005, Mr Lotito then pestered her on a number of occasions by telephone to have sex with her. She did not formally complain to her employer about that, but mentioned it to another consultant who did report it. Ms Poniatowska says the investigation of that matter was unsatisfactory.

On 29 August 2005, Ms Sharrad asked Ms Poniatowska to enter into a sexual relationship with a man from another building company, so that the Hickinbotham Group could secure a land deal with that company.

On 30 September 2005, Mr M Hickinbotham kissed her “strongly on the mouth” whilst on the dance floor at a function being conducted by her employer.

It’s time we got serious about this in Australia and started walking the walk, instead of just talking the talk in our presentations every two years. It’s going to be a top priority for me this year.

How will you ensure your workers are free from bullying and harassment?

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Filed under Diversity/Bullying and Harassment