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    harassment at work

    Harassment: what does it really look like?

    It’s not about intent; it’s about impact.

    We sometimes struggle to know precisely what harassment in the workplace looks like. Can you identify what counts as harassment and what doesn’t?

    For a long time, we have heard: “We should treat people the way we would want to be treated.” But what might bother someone may not even register as an issue for someone else. So it’s time to shift the mindset. 

    Instead, the focus should be on how they would like to be treated.

    What is harassment?

    Occupational Health and Safety defines workplace harassment as a single or repeated incident of objectionable or unwelcome conduct, comment, bullying, or action intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group. 

    So, when considering whether or not you are the victim of harassment, you need to ask yourself: Do you feel any of the following?

    1. Intimidated
    2. Offended 
    3. Degraded 
    4. Humiliated

    What is not harassment?

    In that same thought, workers should not be running to their employers for every minor frivolous incident. 

    Sometimes, conflict can happen between co-workers that may feel unpleasant. Differences of opinion or disagreements are going to happen. They are not considered examples of workplace harassment, and as long as they don’t escalate, they should be regarded as part of a healthy work environment. 

    According to the Workers Compensation Board, several management actions should be considered a normal part of employment unless they are delivered in a way that is aggressive, threatening, or discriminatory.  

    Those include: 

    • Hiring employees 
    • Performance evaluations 
    • Performance corrective actions
    • Staff assignments, transfers or restructuring

    The impact is critical here as employers should be considering how they are communicating these actions to their employees and how they are taking them in.

    But, employees should also not be taking everything personally, especially if it is done constructively.  

    How do we guard against it?

    Communication is key in prevention.

    As part of the Occupational, Health and Safety Code (Part 27), employers must properly define workplace harassment. They are also required to develop prevention plans and review them once every three years.

    If this is done, everyone on the team will have a deeper understanding of what interactions they should be aware of, creating a healthier workplace environment. 

    It’s not about intent; it’s about impact.

    We can say and do things with the best intentions, but there could be a problem if it is not perceived that way. This is why a workplace environment where communication is consistently promoted and toxic elements such as harassment are proactively defined and discussed will flourish. Everyone will feel engaged by the process, know, and feel empowered to address it when these concerns arise.

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