Dealing with workplace harassment, bullying and discrimination to create a respectful workplace

Prevention of Sexual Harassment - training

Prevention of Sexual Harassment training in Canada is not as complex as people might think. While you want to make sure people understand the basics of the law, the training should not be designed to help lawyers pass their Bar exams. Training should be for people to understand sexual harassment and then prevent it from happening.


Too often workplace managers are cleaning up the problems after someone has been sexually harassed. However if you can let everyone know what is expected of them in the first place, then you don’t have to worry about cleaning up the problem afterwards.


Supervisors and managers often think employees are the ones who need the prevention of sexual harassment or respectful workplace training, and they might be right. But it shouldn’t stop there. Supervisors and managers need to know all the information employees know, and a bit more.


Knowledge is a powerful thing and the more people know about their rights and responsibilities regarding issues of harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination, the better off they’ll be.


When do you need sexual harassment training?


When you want everyone to be on-side for a respectful environment


When you’re introducing a new policy or re-introducing an updated policy


When you have a number of new hires – to ensure everyone understands your corporate culture and expectations


When you’ve heard sufficient comments that you think enough people need to hear a clear message of what is respectful and what is sexual harassment


If you have knowledgeable in-house trainers, or if you want an expert from outside, you want to cover information that will effect real change – not just checking a course off your list of things to do. Any training must be:


Relevant. It has to speak to your workplace and your issues.


Realistic. Don’t get out the text book stuff and pretend everything runs like a case-study. It doesn’t and when someone brings up problems, you better be ready to discuss them.


Interactive. If you’re not engaging them, you’re wasting everyone’s time.


Fun and entertaining. Who said sexual harassment training has to be a big bore? Ok, many are, but that’s not the kind you want to deliver.


Employee Training

The following outline can be used to train employees and anyone who supervises or manages your employees. Believe it or not, 3 to 3.5 hours is often plenty of time.


l. Examples of harassment


Don’t start out with your boring text-book definition of harassment and discrimination. Sure you want to cover these things, but people can learn from interesting cases and examples. Don’t think of it as benefiting from the misery of others, but instead, learning from their mistakes. You can use most cases across Canada, regardless of where you work.


II. Definition of harassment & your policy


Somewhere in the process, you do want to cover the real and legal definition of sexual harassment, and any other forms of harassment as found in your policy. If you go line by line, you’ll be doing everyone a favour by helping them catch up on their sleep. Give them the simple facts and let them know where to go for help if they need it – as defined by your policy.


III. What a respectful workplace looks like


This is where you discuss the specifics of your workplace and the unique issues and conversations that can take place where words are considered respectful or not. Keep in mind that while there is a certain amount of latitude for each workplace, the definitions and the expectations by the courts and tribunals tend to be the same. Meaning, everyone is protected by the same laws.


IV. The impact of mere words


Most harassment or issues of disrespect, come down to mere words. Let employees know that opinions, “truths”, generalizations, and all kinds of other words, might seem harmless, but depending on the context, can get people’s backs up and can land other people in hot water. If we just talk about policies and laws, without putting everything into meaningful context, then very little will sink in. People may not remember all the laws, but they’ll certainly remember how people feel when something goes wrong.


V. How to deal with harassment


This last part wraps everything up by giving employees the tools to deal with problems as they arise. Not every issue can be dealt with easily – and that’s when a supervisor, manager, or a human resources specialist can help.


So let employees know where they can go for assistance, but also give them the basics to speak up for themselves so they can try to resolve issues simply and easily. If done right, it will make people realize they can solve their own problems….but it will also let potential harassers know others will no longer put up with their crap.


Supervisor and Management Additions

In addition to the employee training noted above, here is additional information that can be delivered to any of your employees who supervise or manage others.


Lots of time people want the supervisors to have their training first. However, if you do the added supervisory part soon after the employee training, it can be just as effective. You do this by getting everyone in the room for the preliminary information, so that all employees at all levels are on the same page.


Then shortly afterwards you tell the supervisors the extra responsibilities they have. That can save you time and money by having everyone in the same room for the first part. However, if it’s a must to have the supervisors go first, then by all means, get them their training first and they will be ready if someone brings up issues right away.


Here’s the additional information for supervisors and managers:


VI. Supervisory Responsibilities


Supervisors need to know their additional legal responsibilities at work. Some may seem obvious, but in fact, most are a bit surprised as to what the law requires of them. Additional cases, involving managerial responsibility might open their eyes when they find out other managers got into trouble.


VII. Managing a Complaint


This last part for supervisors and managers gives them simple tools to deal with complaints as they see them, or as people bring them to their attention. Don’t go for an “investigation” course. Leave that to internal or external experts. Give them the confidence to know which of their responses the workplace will support and which you won’t support – then there are no surprises when she or he tries to resolve a situation.


Training is just one way to deal with sexual harassment and to ensure you have a respectful workplace. If done well, it can be very helpful and save you a lot of headaches and lawyer’s bills.


Do It Yourself

If you’ve got the right people, with the right knowledge for sexual harassment training and other forms of training, then you might still want resources to help you and your class. On the STORE page you'll find many tools to help fix your workplace.



Hire an Expert

If you would like to bring in an expert, see what Stephen has to offer for sexual harassment and other types of training, visit Stephen Hammond TRAINING page to see descriptions of these training workshops:


1. Leadership Skills to Prevent Harassment & Bullying

2. Managing the Respectful Workplace

3. Managing Human Rights at Work

4. Working Towards a More Respectful Workplace

  FREE Newsletter

26 TIPS for Supervisors

email subscription


  Prevention of
Sexual Harassment