How to foster an environment of healthy tolerance in the workplace
Zero-tolerance policies are used to describe all-or-nothing approaches to problems. In the workplace, zero-tolerance policies involve taking action against employees for even small instances of misconduct or rule-breaking. The idea is that by enforcing consequences that show little tolerance for exceptions, your company creates a safe and productive environment where employees know exactly what’s expected of them and what they can expect from others.
Carry out an audit before implementing any new policies
Before making a move an audit needs to be conducted to evaluate how many rules apply to the employees and whether or not they’re being enforced on a regular basis. This will help determine whether creating a zero-tolerance policy is feasible.
It’s also important to keep track of employees’ feedback on the regulations that are already in place. These insights can be used to create a zero-tolerance policy that everyone is comfortable with.
Follow legislative guidelines for documenting infractions
Enforcing consequences for violations of existing company policies or procedures needs clear documentation. This allows having evidence in case an issue with discipline or performance reviews arises down the road. Every manager who oversees the individual should be involved in taking disciplinary action as well. When you do take that action, be sure to document the violations and follow your company’s procedures on workplace violence and unacceptable behavior.
Lay out a zero-tolerance policy
A clear policy will set expectations for all employees on issues related to unacceptable behavior in the workplace. Three key points of a successful zero-tolerance policy are:
- Addressing issues such as acts of violence, threats, and bullying.
- Making it clear that these types of behaviors are not acceptable in the workplace.
- Identification of consequences for violations of the zero-tolerance policy, up to and including termination.
Don’t overlook minor violations of company policies
It’s common for managers to let small infractions slide without severe consequences because they don’t want their employees to become discouraged by constant reprimands for things beyond their control.
However, this defeats the purpose of a zero-tolerance policy. Unless the infraction is trivial, employees need to be informed that there will be some form of punishment if it happens again.
Take immediate action
It’s easy for managers and HR staff to make threats about disciplinary actions when an employee breaks a rule. However, threats won’t have an impact anything if they aren’t enforced. Employees will quickly catch on to this and start choosing which rules they’re willing to break just so they can get away with more down the road.
After an infraction, immediate action needs to take place – a good place to start is listening to the employees’ side of the story. Also, updating employees about any new policies being considered is very beneficial, as then they can offer their input and feel included. This ensures that no misunderstandings happen later on.
Enforce policies in a respectful manner
Although it’s important to enforce rules and regulations, it’s possible for actions to come across as overly authoritarian. When introducing policies, explaining violations in detail so employees understand exactly where they went wrong and why it isn’t acceptable according to workplace standards reduces confusion and future conflict.
Here are some respectful ways of introducing new policies:
Introduce new rules gradually, one at a time, so employees have time to adjust.
- Give specific examples of how a particular rule was violated instead of being vague or general.
- Provide reasons why certain actions violate existing policies, even if they’re just educated guesses.