Blogs and Stories

Do you want real protection against workplace risk?

Author: Peter Maguire
Published on: June 1, 2021

I recently read an article published on the ABC about what organisations need to do to address one of the main issues in the spotlight at the moment – sexual harassment.

Here is the article:

It features a couple of academics advocating a “systemic and proactive approach” and it points to guidance material released by Safe Work Australia – “Preventing Workplace Sexual Harassment, National Guidance Material, January 2021”.

Unsurprisingly, that, in the main, takes the form of the normal and established risk management approach of:

  • Legislative obligations and penalties
  • Hierarchical workplace responsibility chains
  • Risk assessment and control measures
  • Policies and procedures
  • Complaint/non-compliance reporting and investigation
  • Consequences for non-compliance

One of the interesting things about this article is the premise that organisations are now being required to address sexual harassment as a Workplace Health and Safety matter as if this is something new – is it really?

We have had a duty to provide a safe workplace and safe systems of work for a long time, haven’t we? Personally, I can recall dealing with cases of psychological and emotional risk to people in workplaces as far back as the 1980s.

Even leaving aside the unfortunate facts of sexual harassment in itself, surely we have all known for a long time that it also adds substantial risks to the mental and emotional health and, in some cases, physical health of the victims?

Do you know what the biggest problem that we have in addressing what we really need to do to change attitudes and behaviours in our workplaces is? It is the belief that we can solve this with the traditional “systemic and proactive approach” which is really one of WHS risk management as embodied in Safe Work Australia’s guidance materials ie do a risk assessment, identify control measures, create a policy, communicate it to people, require compliance and punish non-compliance.

That might help to suppress the more obvious and overt sexual harassment for fear of punishment, but it won’t change the underlying attitudes and (anti)social norms that drive the unwanted behaviours in the first place.

What is needed is a new human-centred approach that treats all people as human beings rather than just human resources.

We need to apply a positive mindset and focus on using strengths to foster the right behaviours rather than just having a deficit mindset about fixing what is wrong.

We need to change language in organisations and ensure that we call out and correct inappropriate language at all levels and in all contexts with everyone feeling both empowered to do that and psychologically safe to make the call.

We need to be real about managing the human risks ie the people who we know are most at risk of doing the wrong thing and educating and coaching them to do the right thing as a matter of habit.

We need to develop real character in our businesses where values are reflected in everyday behaviour and people believe them, practise them and trust in their wellbeing at work.

We need to have systems which recognise and reward the right behaviours not just sanction the wrong behaviours.

We need to do all of this in an engaging way ie one which is inviting, educational, culture enriching and accessible in a modern way.

This is where ShareTree comes in. It is a revolutionary platform for bringing about cultural change through a combination of positive mindset, character strengths, gratitude and modern technology. It supports every one of the needs identified above.

Check it out at or give me a call to have a chat about it on 0438 533 311.



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