Bullying, Discrimination and Harassment Part 1: Defining the issues
In this Part One of Two we examine bullying, discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Preventing bullying, discrimination and harassment in the workplace still remains a common issue for many businesses.
Given the staggering amount of information available, and the proliferation of claims, it is clear to us here at Intrepidus Human Resource Consulting this will remain a perennial topic.
Developing and nurturing an effective and supportive workplace culture means constant reinforcement and encouragement and just plain persistence. Let’s start with the basics and define the issues.
Workplace bullying is behaviour (verbal, physical, social or psychological) by a person or group of people at work that offends, degrades, intimidates or humiliates another person or group.
How serious is bullying as an issue?
In 2011 Victoria introduced anti-bullying legislation, known as Brodie’s Law, which made serious bullying a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Brodie’s Law was introduced after the tragic suicide of a young woman, Brodie Panlock, who was subjected to relentless bullying in her workplace.
Discrimination is when we treat other people unfavourably for reasons that may include race, colour, sex, sexual preference, religion, national extraction or social origin, age, marital status, family or carer’s responsibility, physical or mental disability, sexual preference, pregnancy, political opinion.
It is important that we don’t make decisions at work based on perceptions that we might have. We need to ask ourselves why we have those perceptions and are we disadvantaging people because of this. For example – why do some people insist on only men doing certain tasks? – is it because they themselves are men, or are they looking for a particular physical ability which they assume men have. If a woman with the same ability were available, why wouldn’t she be suitable? We need to change our perceptions rather than make blanket discriminatory statements and decisions.
Harassment in the workplace is behaviour towards another person that is unwanted or unwelcome and makes the person feel humiliated, offended or intimidated.
Other key points about harassment:
Intent – the person who is being offensive does not have to intend to hurt the other person. The intent is irrelevant; it is how the recipient perceives the offensive behaviour which is important. This is why it is so vital to make sure you know that something will not offend someone before doing it or saying it – otherwise, don’t do it at all.
Only once – harassment doesn’t have to be repeated; it can occur only once for someone to lodge a complaint against you and they don’t even have to tell you.
Third party complaints – anybody that hears or sees something offensive can make a complaint. Just because the comment or behaviour wasn’t directed at them doesn’t mean that they can’t complain. If in doubt, just don’t have that discussion!
If you have issues or concerns about bullying, discrimination and harassment in the workplace or wish to introduce a preventative program or workshop for employees, contact Intrepidus Human Resource Consulting today for a free initial consultation.
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