to address harassment, bullying and discrimination

 with Stephen Hammond


Most employees in Canada work in a jurisdiction requiring employers to have policies, procedures and education regarding bullying, not just human rights harassment like sexual harassment or racial harassment.  These expanded forms of protections for inappropriate workplace behaviours are often referred to as bullying, psychological harassment, general harassment or personal harassment.


Behaviours of this nature are often dealt with through various departments such as labour, health and safety, or workers’ compensation.  If I had a complaint of bullying, most of these jurisdictions will deal with my complaint as follows:


  • Ask me to put it down in writing (or they can help)
  • They’ll talk to my employer about my concern
  • If my employer has the required policies and procedures on bullying & other forms of harassment, they’ll ask them if they are following it
  • If they are following it, they’ll ask them to please deal with this issue of bullying
  • There’s a certain “hammer” that can be used against employers who don’t deal with bullying, but so far it’s not like the “hammer” found under human rights legislation.  Regardless, a smart employer will fix any problems they discover at their workplace. And the formula is pretty simple when it comes to changing inappropriate workplace behaviours.


With any clients I work for, they all have workplace policies that give employee protection against bullying and all forms of harassment. Many go beyond the minimum requirements of the law, because they fear being a bad employer more than they fear breaking the law. Deal with behaviours in a common sense manner and you won’t have to worry about the law.



  1. Educate employees to change their behaviour – in many ways. Education can be done in formal training with "bums in seats" or through online courses. But it can also be done through informal discussions where everyone is clear on the policies and expected behaviours.

  2. Encourage employees to speak up - all the education in the world is only as good as people's ability to speak up and assert those various policies. Employees learn pretty quickly if the education they received had any merit to it.  If they see that supervisors and managers can get away with bullying behaviour, it's unlikely they will speak up.  If employees are supported when they speak up over legitimate concerns, they will speak up more often.

  3. Ensure there are consequences for bullies - part of speaking up is knowing that if bad behaviour continues, there will be consequences.  There may be no consequences needed if something is resolved amicably or a misunderstanding is cleared up.  However, if bad behaviour continues, there must be consequences...hopefully the kind that leads bullies to stop their bullying ways.  You always want a positive change in behaviour as the end result.

This is TIP #3 of 26 BI-WEEKLY TIPS for managers and supervisors. 
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