Have you included a “Get Along With Others” policy in your handbook?

In some instances, it may not be a good idea to use the hostile work environment policy when addressing hostility in the workplace.  Hostile work environment is a subset of sexual harassment.  If employees are displaying hostile behavior in the workplace, but the hostility is not targeted against a protected class, the offensive behavior might not be a violation of your harassment policy.  Even though the behavior may not violate your harassment policy, you still need to deal with the offensive behavior in the workplace.  In addition to including a sound harassment policy (which includes language regarding hostile work environments) in your handbook, including a “Get Along With Others” policy in your handbook will help you combat the offensive workplace behavior which may not be captured by the typical harassment policy.

Another compelling reason to include a “Get Along With Others” policy in your handbook is a workplace which preserves and protects a respectful work environment minimizes the distraction of unhappy employees.  Sometimes unhappy employees are better at complaining about their employers than they are at executing their jobs.  Whether the complaints are big or small, legitimate or trivial, a negative work environment breeds employee complaints.  The more complaining the better chance the employer will face less productivity, more grievances, increased litigation which all means less customer service in your business or at tribal headquarters.

Therefore, in addition to a strong harassment policy, have you included the following Get Along With Others policy in your handbook?

Please Act Professionally

People who work together have an impact on each others performance, productivity, and personal satisfaction in their jobs. In addition, how our employees act toward clients and vendors will influence whether those relationships are successful for our Tribe.

Because your conduct affects many more people than just yourself, we expect you to act in a professional manner whenever you are on Tribal property, conducting Tribal business, representing the Tribe at business or social functions, and/or interacting with our Clients.

Although it is impossible to give an exhaustive list of everything that professional conduct means, it does, at a minimum, include the following:

•    following all of the rules in this Handbook that apply to you
•    treating coworkers, clients, and vendors with patience, respect, and consideration
•    being courteous and helpful to others, and
•    communicating openly with supervisors, managers, and coworkers.

Individuals who act unprofessionally will face discipline, up to and including termination.

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Recommendation:  Adopt a strong policy, train your people and enforce the policy consistently.

About the Author:

Richard McGee is a lawyer in Minneapolis, Minnesota who focuses his practice on gaming, gaming regulation, tribal employment and litigation in tribal, state and federal courts.  Richard has the privilege of working with tribes and tribal organizations on Human Resources matters including training.  Additionally, tribes ask Richard to address specific topics while incorporating the tribe’s related laws and policies into the sessions.  This is an invitation to engage Richard to produce and facilitate training for your tribe.