Harassment and Bullying
Harassment is defined as improper conduct by an individual, that is directed at and offensive to another individual in the workplace, and that the individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm. "The workplace" includes any event or location related to work.
Harassment also comprises any objectionable act(s), comment(s) or display(s) that demean, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat. It includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act. (i.e. based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and pardoned conviction).
Workplace bullying can be any of the following:
- Shouting at someone - whether in private, in front of colleagues, or in front of other people
- Belittling and making someone feel unimportant
- Being treated with disrespect
- Excessive monitoring
- Constant nitpicking/criticizing/flying off the handle especially over trivial or minor matters or mistakes
- Making someone feel bad and ashamed
- Deliberately overloading someone with work
- Undermining someone such as setting them up to fail
- Purposefully withholding information which is needed for the person to do their job efficiently
- Excluding someone from normal workplace/staffroom conversations and making someone feel unwelcome (this also includes cliques)
Policy for Bullying and Harassment
Every organization should have a Bullying and Harassment Policy. It is important that employees understand the policy and know how to file a complaint should an incident occur. Here are five steps to ensure that your anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies and procedures are understood by all employees and managers.
- Distribute: Let all employees know about the harassment policy, post copies of it on bulletin boards throughout the workplace, and if possible make it available online.
- Educate: Hold education sessions to let employees know what is in the policy; give them definitions and examples of harassment and bullying
- Encourage: Encourage your employees to report incidents of harassment and bullying. Give them easy and confidential ways to make complaints.
- Train: Train managers in ways to prevent bullying and harassment. Make sure they know about the company’s policy and what it says.
- Follow through: Act quickly to follow the policy as soon as someone files a complaint or as soon as you know about the harassment.
Is your workplace at risk for harassment? Click here for an
Investigating Harassment Complaints Checklist.
The process for filing a complaint is an important part of preventing harassment and bullying in the workplace.
- Start the Complaint: Someone writes a complaint and gives it to a manager.
- Take Action: The manager gathers all the information needed to fully understand the situation.
- Interview: The manager interviews all the staff involved in the incident/issue. This includes the person who filed the complaint, the harasser, and all those who witnessed what happened .
- Take action: All the facts are gathered and evaluated and a decision is made on what action to take to address the complaint.
Click here for a sample harassment complaint form.
Options for Addressing Complaints
- Direct Approach: Use this approach only if the complainant feels comfortable meeting with the harasser face-to-face. A complainant may write a letter or talk to a harasser to ask them to change their behaviour.
- Intervention by a Third Party: Have a manager try to resolve the problem by bringing together the people involved.
- Indirect Approach: Use this approach to try to change a harasser’s behaviour without actually talking to them. Meet with all staff, for example, to talk about the company’s harassment policy.
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