The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 3, June 2010

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A Neutral Corner

Atmosphere of Respect Can Improve Firm’s Bottom-line

By Jocelyn Frazer, Equity Ombudsperson, Law Society of Alberta

The type of environment that you create can have a significant impact on your productivity, satisfaction and ultimately on the success of your law firm. By developing and implementing a respectful workplace policy, firms can take important first steps toward fostering positive working relations and managing conflict in the workplace.

Creating a workplace free of discrimination and harassment is more than a legal and ethical responsibility for employers; it also makes good business sense. A firm that commits to providing a respectful work environment makes a strategic move towards retaining talent, improving relationships with clients, and improving performance by understanding and anticipating the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce and marketplace.

A written policy allows firm members to understand clearly what is expected of them and what they can expect from their workplace. It also provides a focused vision for the workplace environment that can be monitored and adjusted over time to meet the firm’s needs. Policies such as a respectful workplace policy can be an asset when recruiting new members to the firm.

Finally, a written policy demonstrates that a firm takes its legal, professional and equality obligations seriously. It will help minimize the risk of workplace harassment or discrimination as well as the risk that a firm will be held liable for unlawful harassment or discrimination.

However a written policy is only one step towards implementing a respectful workplace policy. The success of the policy depends on support and involvement from all levels of the organization. The steps of development, implementation, training, and monitoring of the policy are key to minimizing conflict and harassment. As important as a thoughtful policy with a positive tone may be, it cannot overcome a hostile environment or attitude from others.

Implementing a respectful workplace policy is a long-term process towards organizational change. Legal workplaces should be aware that resistance to change is a normal reaction that can be planned for and overcome. Implementation of a successful respectful workplace policy will promote the well being of all at the firm and reinforce the values of integrity and trust that are the foundation of a sound organization.

A sample guideline for developing a respectful workplace is available from the Office of the Equity Ombudsperson and includes information on the following:

  • Legal and Ethical Responsibilities
  • How to Develop and Implement a Respectful Workplace Policy
  • Writing the Policy
  • Implementing and Communicating the Policy
  • Promoting the Policy and
  • Reviewing, Evaluating and Revising the Policy.

For more information, or to discuss other issues, please contact Jocelyn Frazer at (403) 229-4769 or toll-free 1-888-229-4769.

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