Bullying and Harassment – Your HR Strategy Should be Prevention


By Cori Maedel

Effective November 1, 2013, BC employers, supervisors and workers began operating under a new set of three legally binding WorkSafeBC policies. As an employer, you must take reasonable steps to prevent workplace bullying and harassment.

With the recent changes to the Bill 14 anti-bullying and harassment policies, many organizational leaders and HR professionals are overwhelmed by what is required to achieve compliance and to make real change.

It is no longer a matter of simply having a policy in place. This new legislation requires that processes and training programs are in place to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace, as well as address what to do in the event it occurs. It must be integrated into all of your organizational practices.

In the past, people might have hoped bullying and harassment issues would go away, but now HR and managers have a duty to prevent, inquire and investigate if they suspect something is going on.

As an HR professional, your best strategy should always be prevention. Following are 10 steps you can take to prevent bullying and harassment in your organization:

1. A clear “Respectful Workplace” policy and procedures that includes the responsibilities of Employers, Supervisors and Employees as required by Worksafe B.C.

2. Ensure the policy is communicated and that procedures are trained. Take steps to ensure a “Respectful Workplace” is a part of your company culture.

3. Conduct a risk assessment to identify –

  • Job stressors – normal or potential for excessive intensity or duration
  • Environmental high risk areas – safety sensitive positions, isolated workers, negative workspaces
  • Interpersonal high risk areas – aggressive management styles, poor relationships, challenging clients/customers/vendors, “ticking time bombs”
  • Human Resources high risk areas – discipline/termination, performance management, investigations

4. Take steps to address issues arising from your risk assessment

5. Hiring –

  • Start with a clear position description
  • Ensure candidates are clear on job expectations and potential stressors
  • Conduct thorough interviews and reference checks

6. Respond to potential claims –

  • Don’t wait for a formal complaint
  • Observe and listen for problematic behaviour

7. Identify early warning signs –

  • Distress
  • Isolation
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Changes in demeanor

8. Recognize and deal with problematic behavior even if no complaint

9. Respond to complaints quickly and thoroughly.

10. Ask for expert assistance when needed.

These steps are a good starting point in ensuring your organization is not only achieving compliance with these new policies, but it is creating meaningful organizational change that will help prevent bullying and harassment. Creating and maintaining a respectful workplace is the best way to protect your organization, strengthen your culture and increase your productivity.

Cori Maedel is presenting Aligning HR Practices to the Business in Vancouver on February 6. For more information on this and other professional development opportunities, please refer to BC HRMA’s online calendar.

Cori Maedel runs the Jouta Performance Group and has 25 years of diverse professional experience in HR and business development.

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