Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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“It Never Happens Here”: Workplace Bullying

harper-titleThe first thing one thinks of when hearing the term bullying is schoolyards or cyber bullying, but when these bullies grow up, they often become bullies in another environment: the workplace.

The statistics are alarming – 40% of Canadian employees have experienced one or more acts of workplace bullying at least once a week for the last six months; a staggering 74% of employees have been bullied at some time in the workplace, and 75% of employees that have been bullied leave their workplace! The result of this bullying can have a devastating impact on your workforce with decreases in productivity, an increase in employee turnover, an increase in absenteeism, an increase in health issues ranging from depression to harming oneself or others, an increase in legal costs, workers compensation, or management time, and a decrease in company morale.

Besides the stigma of workplace bullying, many employees are hesitant to report it to their HR departments because they might be concerned of the repercussions, or of being labelled a whistleblower, or of their perpetrator, particularly when their manager is involved, making things even worse for them at work.

Although we are more likely to laugh off an insult or comment at work or to treat it as a personality trait (particularly when a boss or manager is verbally offensive to you at work) but the fact is, it is bullying and it won’t stop until you do something about it. It seems there is a very fine line between a strong management style and bullying, but if you are feeling repeatedly mistreated, then chances are you are being bullied.

Employers often treat bullying and harassment as one and the same, however they are different: workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable and unwelcome behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees that creates a risk to health and safety. Workplace harassment is unwanted behaviour that offends, humiliates or intimidates a person, and targets them on the basis of a characteristic such as gender, race or ethnicity.

I have found that in most cases employees know when they are in a bullying situation, but what they don’t know is what to do about it that is safe and effective. I have outlined below a few approaches to reduce workplace bullying at your organization:

  1. Create a protective environment for employees that will foster positive and respectful relationships.
  2. Employees need to feel safe at work. Develop an internal anti-bullying workshop to create awareness of the issue, teach people social and emotional skills, post applicable company policies in visible areas, and develop team-building exercises.
  3. Provide support (third party EAP counselling) to those who may be affected by workplace bullying and take active steps to stop it from occurring again.
  4. Create a bullying response process to ensure everyone in the organization responds in an appropriate way when they see bullying or conflict occurring.
  5. Provide intervention and prevention programs.
  6. Create anti-bullying policies and procedures.

When is bullying acceptable? Never. Whether it is in the schoolyard, online, or at work, there is no situation in which an individual should be made to feel harassed, ridiculed or inferior. Make sure your organization does the right thing and takes actions towards creating a safe and collaborative environment.

If you have an anti-bullying policy at work, does it go far enough in protecting your employees? If there isn’t one in place, do you know what steps to take towards implementing an anti-bullying policy? I look forward to a lively discussion on this topic.

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Feeling Safe

SafetyMainAs I write this blog, I am reminded that today is Remembrance Day, a day dedicated to the men and women in Canada who lost their lives fighting for our freedom and safety.

In the past month, Canada has been rocked by incidents of violence toward our country and accusations of harassment in the workplace. Victims have come forward and shared their stories with the media and in turn, the public. Where we live and work should be a space that should make us feel safe and comfortable. It is a human right in a free society to feel safe. At work, the Human Rights Code, Workplace Violence and Harassment Legislation and the Criminal Code, are safety laws available to employees, yet harassment in the workplace are covered up for years, and still continues.

There are ways we can help create an environment that does not tolerate wrongful treatment of others, but also provides the resources should harassment issues still arise.

Every employee has the right to be treated with respect and has a responsibility to treat others with respect. If a person feels that he or she is being harassed, they should talk to someone that they trust, whether it be a co-worker, a family member or an employee in the human resources department, if one exists. It is important to document these incidents, and inform employees of the policies the employer has in place.

Harassment poisons the entire workplace and affects employee morale and productivity. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do as an employer or person of influence to keep your work environment safe and respectful:

  1. Clear Expectations
  • Make sure that the expectations in your workplace are clear – harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
  1. Monitor the Atmosphere
  • Pay attention to the tone of interactions and comments made between co-workers and the use of offensive emails, inappropriate comments, derogatory language or jokes, and check for increased absenteeism or staff turnover.
  1. Lead by Example
  • Model respectful behaviours
  1. Maintain Open Communication Channels
  • Policies, procedures, and resources should be posted visibly in common areas, and senior management should offer an open door.

 

A workplace with an EAP and advanced health management programs that include trauma support will be able to help your employees in their time of need, and aid in their recovery in the workplace. We can all work together to create a safe place where we can work productively and feel supported. Let’s pause today and ask if the recent violence against Canada and harassment events reported in the media have caused you concern for your safety? What steps have you taken to make your office, which is a microcosm of the larger community, a “safer” environment for you, your colleagues, and your staff? Are we doing our part to make our work environment and country a safe place to work and live?

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section below.