The provincial government has recently unveiled steps to eliminate harassment in our schools. This topic has made the headlines frequently in the past year and definitely needs to be addressed. But harassment doesn’t just start and end at school. The workplace also sees similar behaviour where employees are subjected to the same conditions as a school child. The difference though, is that sometimes it manifests itself in more subtle, cunning ways, but it is still harassment.
In the past, many corporate policies addressed harassment in terms of the Human Rights code: race, colour, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, etc. But this never touched on bullying behaviour to control and intimidate, irrespective of race, religion, etc. What if at work, just as in schools, some people just want to dominate and intimidate, perhaps because you’re shy, or skinny, or viewed as a threat. Bullying in the workplace is just as wrong as in schools. Unlike schools, however, the bully at work is often a person in authority. It is difficult for the victim to defend themselves where the usual forms of discrimination are absent. This goes beyond Human Rights as defined. There needs to be an expansion of the definition of the rights of human beings.
One interesting development is a current private member’s bill in the provincial legislature, Bill M217. This bill targets the reduction and elimination of workplace bullying by modifying the Worker's Compensation Act.
The bill recommends changing the term harassment in the workplace to include “any conduct, comment, display, action, or gesture that adversely affects a worker's psychological or physical wellbeing” where “the actor knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause a worker to be humiliated or intimidated.” The bill goes on to include “the act of intentionally causing harm through verbal harassment, intimidation or other more subtle methods of coercion such as manipulation, including ignoring and isolating a person.” Finally, “harassment may occur in the absence of any intent to harm, humiliate, intimidate or otherwise harass a worker.”
Many organizations, such as Canada Post, are beginning to recognize bullying in the workplace and are incorporating language in their policies to address the issue.
Municipalities and school boards should adopt similar codes of conducts to include this expanded definition of bullying and have it apply to not only staff, but to members of committees and volunteers as well. Local governments depend on a variety of paid and unpaid labour to carry the community forward. The framework for all this talent should be covered by the same umbrella. The adults should expect the same environment as we want to create for our children.
Some of the Village of Lions Bay policies are lacking or archaic, including areas of Human Resources. Perhaps the province’s initiatives can stimulate us to take a look at our policies. There is a lot of talent in this Village that could make a contribution in that regard. Then again, perhaps a professional organization can dust off and revamp some of our policies. The costs could be offset by the wages saved from the administrator’s absence. Important projects such as the recreation centre need people to make them happen, staff and volunteers. The human investment is just as important and should not be set aside for when we have time.
With a bit of determination, corporations and governments can create a better world, one baby step at a time.
Please mark Sunday May 26th on your calendars now. More updates can be obtained here or through the Art Council website: Link to Lions Bay Art Council website