How Do We Deal With Complaints Against Your Organization’s “Rockstar”?

In January 2021, an independent consultant’s report into the Governor General’s office at Rideau Hall detailed a toxic workplace riddled with bullying and harassment. Julie Payette (and her BFF) has since resigned.

In an article by The Toronto Star Prime Minister Trudeau is quoted as saying “I think it is important to demonstrate that there are no workplaces that are too important or so high-pressure or no one person who is so important — in whatever position — that gets to leave people in an unsafe work environment.”

But of the 92 people interviewed for the report, less than 10 reported a positive or neutral working environment; which begs the question: How did this go on for so long? How could an office with so many unhappy employees continue to operate?

Do we treat so-called “Rockstar” in the office differently than we do others? In 2021, the answer should be no. Remember the quote “treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO?” In a perfect world, this is how it should be, but sadly it isn’t.

So, what should an organization be doing?

Ensure a Workplace Culture of Safety and Respect

This is probably why the 92 people did not come forward. They didn’t feel safe coming forward until an external consultant was brought in. Over the years, employees have told me they don’t say anything as they think nothing will be done (especially with a Rockstar!).

Develop a Strong Leadership Team

A key to developing a safe and respectful workplace is to have effective managers who are approachable, trusted by employees, and have the skills to deal with employee complaints and conflict in the workplace.

A Clear & Concise Respectful Workplace Policy & Process

When a strong Policy & Process is in place, it should apply to everyone – C suite, managers, Rockstar employees and janitors. If organizations ignore employee complaints, the workplace can become toxic, and an organization can run the risk of severe financial and legal repercussions.

When we condone bullying or harassing behaviour of Rockstar employees, no matter how minor, we run the risk of the behaviour becoming more severe and more pervasive, and we can find ourselves in a situation like the one at Rideau Hall, where a workplace becomes toxic and eventually relies on whistleblowers and past employees approaching the media to introduce change.

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