Dealing with Harassment and Bullying

As a manager or a supervisor, you have an added responsibility in terms of ensuring a safe workplace for your reports. It is up to you to be aware of potential signs of harassment or bullying and if you do, to act on them.

You will also want to be very clear on what harassment means and to know what your company policies say as well as what other laws and legislation there might be that could affect your organization.

As well, if you are a supervisor or manager in B.C., you will want to be sure you are up to date with the changes to the WorkSafe BC regulations since the passing of Bill 14. Bill 14 has made it possible for an employee that believes he or she is the target of personal or psychological harassment (bullying) at work, to put in a compensation claim against the employer for a mental disorder as a result of the bullying behaviours. It would be a good idea for you to review Section 5.1 of the Worker’s Compensation Act to get a better understanding of what could be compensable.

Harassment (as legislated by human rights) and bullying have very similar language in terms of being conduct or behaviours that are unwelcome and demeaning or otherwise offensive. Both are very harmful. The main difference is that harassment under human rights is based on discriminatory grounds and personal harassment or bullying is not based on those grounds.

As a manager or supervisor, some of the things you can look for that might indicate there are problems with harassment or bullying, is:

• A once high performing individual is no longer performing well
• The group dynamics are changing on your team – you see someone isolating from the others
• Conflict among employees is increasing
• Absenteeism is becoming more problematic
• An individual’s appearance and dress have deteriorated
• Complaints seem to be increasing
• You notice a particular department is experiencing ‘churn’
• More accidents and near misses

Now, these issues could be as a result of many different things and are not necessarily directly related to harassment; but it may be worth your time and effort to ask a few questions if you notice little changes happening.

Review your policies to see how you might best approach a situation and if necessary, ask for some support from your human resources department, or if you are a smaller organization that doesn’t have human resources; speak to a senior person in the company that can assist you.

The worst thing you can do if you suspect something is going on, is nothing. Turning a blind eye to problems only makes them worse and you could potentially be leaving yourself open to inclusion in a human rights or civil case.

Remember, you have a responsibility as a leader in your company to uphold the policies that are in place and that means being part of creating a healthy workplace for your employees.

If you are ever in doubt as to what you can do or what your responsibilities are – check out some of the valuable resources available through WorkSafe BC or BC Human Rights Coalition. www.worksafebc.com and http://www.bchrcoalition.org/

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