to address harassment, bullying and discrimination

 with Stephen Hammond


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Now back to Tip #26...


In January 2019, a poll came out showing 46% of Canadians were $200 away from financial insolvency. This poll is very similar to other polls in both Canada and the United States, and what it’s saying is that for the people who responded to this survey, if 46% had to pay a $200 dental bill, or their car needed $200 in repairs, they would not be able to cover it.


So how does this relate to workplace supervision?


When I speak to people about workplace issues, sometimes supervisors will tell me how they pride themselves on being open about listening to concerns. If we’re talking sexual harassment, racial discrimination, bullying or any inappropriate behaviours, they have let their employees know they can come to them for help. And with employees knowing how open their supervisors are, it perplexes these supervisors when such an employee is in any way intimidated to bring issues forward.


But there will always be factors which prevent a reasonable, rational person from speaking up. One of those reasons is that if they are at their personal financial breaking point, they won’t risk an even 1% chance that their job or regular pay will be jeopardized. Not 1%.


So what does a good, productive, caring supervisor do?


  • I think the best approach is to convey the message to all your employees that you:
  • Require a respectful workplace, free of inappropriate behaviours;
  • Want employees to speak up to anyone who exhibits bad behaviours;
  • Understand if they don’t want to speak up directly, or their speaking up didn’t work. Instead, they can come to you and anyone else your workplace has designated, to seek advice/protection/remedy;
  • Will ensure the truth comes out, regardless of how another person howls, or how powerful a person is within your workplace…hence they should speak the truth.


Of course, if you can’t back any of these up, either by your own past experience, or because your workplace doesn’t truly support their employees, then don’t say those things. However, most workplaces want these protections and do in fact deliver on them. But sometimes someone has to speak up.


If an employee, with money problems, or concerns about wanting to fit in, or for any other reason, is reluctant to speak up, then hopefully they’ll weigh the odds and listen to your sincere promise of support. You can’t have control over everything going on in an employee’s mind, but you do have control over how your workplace issues are resolved. Focus on the things you have control over.



1). Work with your policies – as they set out what employees can do. Every company has decent policies surrounding workplace behaviours. Ensure your employees, independent of you, know their options if they encounter inappropriate behaviours. That way, if you’re away, they still know what to do.


2). Talk it up – as a reminder. I’m sure your employees have received some level of education regarding harassment and other behaviours. But we all have a lot on our minds and repetition helps. You’ve got a workforce to run, so these reminders don’t have to be all the time, but they should be often enough to help people out.


3). Be a role model – since that counts more than policies and words. You don’t have to be perfect, but you should be the role model where employees think, “that’s how I like to be treated.” If you exhibit good behaviour, it will inspire (yes, inspire) people to behaviour in a similar fashion and even to speak up on their own, before they ever have to come to you. And of course, they’ll know they can come to you with great comfort, for even uncomfortable situations.

This is TIP #26 of 26 BI-WEEKLY TIPS for managers and supervisors. 
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