Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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Sexual Harassment – How Prepared Is Your Organization?

Sexual-Harassment-22Looking back on 2014, it is quite apparent that there was an influx in the number of workplace sexual harassment scandals appearing in the media. First, renowned CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi was arrested and charged on four counts of sexual assault, and has since had three charges added after more accusers stepped forward. Soon after, our Parliament was under fire after female MPs and staffers began coming forward with sexual assault allegations against many high-profile male MPs. Turning to our neighbours to the South, television legend Bill Cosby made headline news after numerous women came forward claiming the actor had assaulted them in the past.

With many of these allegations occurring in the workplace, business owners and human resources departments must be more aware than ever of how to prevent, notice, and deal with sexual harassment. Without the proper procedures in place to prevent and/or handle cases of sexual harassment, employers are at risk of a long list of negative repercussions, including decreased productivity, low morale, increased absenteeism, and potential legal expenses.

What questions must you ask yourself in preparation to prevent/respond to sexual harassment in your organization? We’ve listed some to start with below:

  • Do you have a defined procedure in place to deal with the sexual harassment?
  • What response-time standard will you institute to indicate a sense of urgency for the complaint?
  • How will you communicate the severity for which you handle each and every case?
  • Do you have the appropriate resources available to deal with the complaint?
  • Do you have the appropriate resources available to the person who complained, and the remainder of your employees?
  • How will you communicate the action taken to the person who complained?

Answering these questions is only the beginning. Depending on your responses, your challenge is to ensure you’re armed with the right tools to respond to cases of sexual harassment and just as importantly, to take appropriate action in order to mitigate sexual harassment in your workplace

The conversation regarding sexual harassment in the workplace is an important one, which is why we want to go beyond this blog to talk to you about it. This year at the 2015 HRPA from January 21-23, Aspiria is offering you the opportunity to discuss your organization’s policy, training and concerns regarding sexual harassment by meeting with an expert from Yellow Brick House, a women’s shelter and counselling centre in York Region and myself.
Space is limited, so don’t waste any time in calling to book your 15 minute “meet the experts” appointment with us at Aspiria’s booth (#312)! Contact 1-877-277 4742 ext 105 or e-mail us to schedule your appointment.

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Supporting Students in Times of Tragedy

university students grief

The recent tragedy involving the fatal stabbings of five Calgary university students has left the entire country reeling with shock and disbelief. Outside of immediate family and friends, University of Calgary students are those most strongly affected by the deaths of their peers. How does a student body, faculty and staff recover from such a set-back in morale, which has undoubtedly affected their studies as well as personal mental health? Just as importantly, how can Colleges and Universities be proactive and prepare themselves in anticipation of a tragedy occurring in their schools?

Considering that the university and college age demographic is highly vulnerable to mental health issues, especially in light of such tragedy and grief, it is vital that the educational institution bands together as a community to keep one another safe. The University of Calgary has been working diligently to provide support to the students of the university, encouraging them to participate in the vigils, funerals and celebrations of life for the victims, offering counselling sessions as well as accommodating students who wish to defer exams. How else can we support our students in a time like this?

Communication and Active Listening: Loss of life, especially of young people with such bright futures, can be very triggering for individuals within a community, so it is important that there are platforms for people to talk and listen to each other. Having counsellors available for students, staff and faculty as well as encouraging students to listen to and support one another is helpful in making people feel part of their community during difficult times.

Promote alternative counselling: Because university and college students fall into the Millennial generation, they sometimes prefer communicating through technology versus more traditional talk-therapy. Options like phone counselling, e-counselling, video-chat or the use of a mobile app, can target students who are less likely to ask for help outright and can access support within their comfort zone.

Prevention:  Often times, organizations are in a reactive mode to solving a problem, acting as if it was unexpected.  To be proactive is to be planned and prepared, albeit as much as one can be, and it is prudent when operating in a student environment.

Programs that help organizations be prepared for a tragic event should include the following:

1) Developing a Emergency Response Plan, such as the one the University of Toronto implemented in 2009  that maps out the course of action to take when a tragedy strikes an educational facility, utilizing all the available resources at your disposal.  But this is not enough:  all students and staff need to understand what that plan is, and know how to act accordingly in the event of a school crisis.  Just like there are school fire drills in case of fire, there should be emergency drills in case of campus violence.

2) As I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog, Millennial students often lack solid coping skills upon entering the post-secondary education setting. As a more long-term solution, an institution could implement Coping Skills Training, which would help students identify triggers to their mental health, and learn strategies to support themselves through a mental health issue

3) Stress Management Strategies, like the ones offered featured on the Santa Clara University can help individual students who are under pressure, feeling anxious, lonely, scared, or lost, to learn to cope with their mental health issues. For example, stress busting events that aim to help students relax during stressful times, such as during the exam period and during the harsh winter months, have been adopted by universities and colleges Stress Busters can help students learn the skills necessary in times of grief as well, as it can give students the permission they need to distract themselves from their period of anxiety and pressure.

What other strategies could an educational institution employ to support students during times of trauma, grief, and loss? What have you seen universities and Colleges do? I look forward to your thoughts below.