The HR department at a large organisation had run an investigation into a complaint a female employee had raised, which became a grievance, against one of her colleagues who she worked with on a semi-regular basis.
The circumstances were that the woman felt that she had been the subject of harassing remarks relating to her appearance and that other comments had been made relating to her gender and weight which she felt were inappropriate. Her grievance had been upheld and an outcome of the investigation was that the man who had made these remarks should undergo coaching to stop the behaviour.
The types of remarks were not considered sufficiently serious to warrant termination of employment but it was felt that they breached the policy on the organisation's Dignity at Work policy. I was asked to meet with the person who had been accused of behaving in this way to provide independent support in terms of behavioural change.
The person who had been accused of breaching the policy was clear that he had not intended to cause harm by his remarks and felt that they had been totally normal in the manufacturing culture he had experienced in the past. Here that sort of banter had been acceptable. My client was confused about how their comments had been interpreted and were unclear what the rules were and how to take things forward. They felt uncertain and inhibited and very confused about what to do next.
I gave my client a psychometric assessment, NEO PI-3 to understand his current behaviours and also did a deep-dive into the Dignity at Work Policy. We watched videos to show what was expected of him at work in terms of behaviour, which included social media and also discussed what could and could not be said in the working environment in the future.
Several issues arose, the first was his deep grief at the loss of a parent and how he was compensating for the depression and loss he was feeling by trying to 'lighten the mood' especially at work when things were quiet and he was left with his thoughts. The second was a requirement to move with the times in terms of stopping the old-fashioned and sexist behaviours from the past as they were not appropriate in a modern working environment.
In terms of his grief, we explored how me might more usefully approach looking at his emotions and feelings through counselling and not through inappropriate masking behaviours at work. By articulating his sorrow he was no longer repressing some deep and uncomfortable feelings.
Finally, there were also issues around his 'fit' at work where he felt under-utilised and bored and had become the 'office prankster' as he had time on his hands. We discussed how he needed to focus on either finding more useful ways to use his skills in his current employment i.e. by taking on more and different work, or to go in search of a more suitable job elsewhere.
At the end of the coaching he was in no doubt about what was expected of him in terms of behaviour at work, what his drivers had been and also what his goals were for the future.