Recently Canadian news has been busy reporting on stories of sexual harassment and bullying within police forces. The RCMP, Canada’s national police force, and local units, have been accused of fostering cultures of harassment and bullying and with behaving inappropriately with the public. Maybe that’s part of why legislators in Alberta, Canada thought it was time to table a bill on workplace bullying (one of our stories this week). Obviously this isn’t a Canada-specific problem. Workplace bullying and harassment is something we have all seen or experienced. Far from rare, it’s even endemic in some high-pressure fields. So this week I’ve gathered five stories about bullying and harassment and about how we can fight it.
Here is your Friday Five:
Comedy troupe Second City published a thoughtful piece on rooting out harassment in the workplace, Brynne Humphreys, their VP of Client Services. Humphreys says that working long hours without overtime, emphasizing authenticity and realness and an expectation that employees socialize with clients are all risk factors. They don’t lead to or foster harassment in and of themselves, but they create opportunities for it: work outside normal hours and even outside of the workplace; an expectation of emotional labour and performance; and an emphasis on realness being a virtue. We’ve all seen people excuse bad behaviour as realness.
Legislators in Alberta, Canada recently tabled a bill aiming to stamp out workplace harassment and bullying. Craig Coolahan, a Member of Provincial Parliament who helped author the bill, writes about his motivations in pushing the legislation and about strategies we can take to combat abuse in the workplace.
“This is a fact made even more troubling by how pervasive harassment and bullying is at work. A recent study showed 60 per cent of Alberta workers have been exposed to workplace harassment. Half of all victims of bullying or harassment will not report it to their company’s human resources department, and of those that do, 62 per cent say no action was taken on their complaint.
We can do better. Albertans deserve a workplace that is safe from physical harm and the psychological and emotional damage that workplace harassment inflicts on its victims.”
This week Bloomberg’s Gameplan podcast tackled sexual harassment in the workplace. Well, the data agrees: progress on stamping out sexual harassment is achingly slow. Bloomberg reporter Claire Suddath interviewed 20 women as part of her research for this episode and their stories are all too familiar. “Many of us want to believe we live in a post-Mad Men era, in which most people know not to harass each other at work. As it turns out, in many ways we don’t.”
Just before the election writer Kelly Oxford asked her followers to share their stories of workplace harassment. Thousands shared their story on Twitter, Facebook, Medium and elsewhere. Wired decided to follow Oxford’s example and asked their readers to share their stories. They received emails from teens in their first jobs, men and women on the verge of retirement who’d been subject to harassment their whole career — from all ages, backgrounds and social strata, really. They’ve published 75 of the emails which reveal much about the different kinds of harassment that take place at work and just how dangerous it is.
Salan writer Mary Elizabeth Williams asked attorney Michael J. Pospis for tips on how to respond to harassment, and how to build a case against it. He emphasizes the importance of documentation, which will help HR and the justice system to respond appropriately. “When I meet with somebody I try to get a true sense of all the facts, what’s going on. The term hostile work environment, by definition, it’s an environment it’s not just one distinct or discrete act.”