If you follow Emtrainâ€™s views on sexual harassment and workplace conduct, you know we believe in color coding conduct as a shared workplace language. People have different views on what is or is not harassment and one personâ€™s â€śharassmentâ€ť is another personâ€™s friendly gesture. So you have different perceptions. You also have imprecise language that makes differing perceptions an even bigger challenge to navigate. People say â€śharassmentâ€ť imprecisely so itâ€™s pretty common to have a frustrated person call out harassment when in fact, itâ€™s really less than harassment (but still problematic) and the person is simply reacting from emotion and frustration. So the benefit of using a shared workplace language, specifically designed to categorize and describe workplace conduct on a respectful spectrum is a proactive way to anticipate sticky situations and get people communicating effectively, enabling them to course correct and eliminate negative â€śpeopleâ€ť situations that crop up when people work together.
The Workplace Color SpectrumÂ®
We color code conduct by using our Workplace Color SpectrumÂ®. The Workplace Color SpectrumÂ® describes the range of conduct from healthy to toxic: green, yellow, orange and red. Â On the green, healthy side of the spectrum, you have people who are showing up to work as their best selves: respectful, ethical, inclusive, empathetic, patient, and a good communicator. We can all be green but itâ€™s unrealistic to think weâ€™re green all the time because it takes work and discipline to be green. Yellow conduct is when weâ€™re less than ideal: not as respectful or patient, our communication isnâ€™t as effective as it could be, etc. Orange conduct refers to when people start bringing in personal characteristics (that are legally protected) into the workplace, such as race, gender, religion, age, national origin, sexual orientation, and others. How is orange conduct brought into the workplace? Typically through jokes or casual conversations with co-workers. Orange conduct injects a note of disrespect and exclusion (an â€śus versus themâ€ť mentality) — even if itâ€™s a joke that makes people laugh — using personal characteristics as the basis for the comment or joke shows a lack of respect and courtesy. If left unchecked and orange conduct continues, the situation could turn toxic for people; toxic on our Workplace Color Spectrum™ means a culture with turnover, disrespect, exclusion and the potential for a big loss in employer brand and reputational value (as well as legal violations). (See our video on How to Color Code Workplace Conduct Using the Workplace Color SpectrumÂ®.)
What is the Best Way to Respond to â€śOrangeâ€ť Behavior?
So how do you respond to orange conduct and help course correct? By simply telling the person the comment or joke was a bit orange. You donâ€™t need to be confrontational, angry or emotional. Â You identify orange actions in the same way youâ€™d give any other performance feedback; by providing feedback on the ACTIONS rather than criticizing the PERSON. Itâ€™s NOT personal because we ALL go orange once in a while. We all engage in an â€śus versus themâ€ť mentality at times; itâ€™s called being human. So tell the person their actions are a bit orange; say it in a nice tone of voice and the person will appreciate your effort at helping them avoid a problem. If everyone in the workplace understands that orange means weâ€™re on a slippery slope to being toxic, then a simple orange callout should be enough to course correct and keep the workplace culture on a good, healthy track.Â Watch our video Responding to Orange ConductÂ to see real workplace scenarios that teach these principles in an interesting and entertaining way.