Respectful Workplaces – Preventing Harassment & Bullying

(or, Why People Shouldn’t be Hassled at Work!)

 

If a person is unfairly teased, hassled or otherwise pestered in the workplace, it affects their,

  • Attendance & Performance
  • Likelihood of accidents and injury
  • Willingness to stay in the job, or, to quit before the project is complete, and,
  • Stress, behaviours and many other aspects of work.

In short, their contribution to the film project is hampered by the poor behaviour of others.

 

On the other hand, Crew who feel confident in their work and surroundings can deliver their best efforts and contribute to the success of the project. Respectful workplaces…work!

Good natured teasing & joking are fun & fine, harassment & bullying, however, are illegal.

 

Background on harassment-Back in the day, some workplaces tolerated poor behaviours that are no longer acceptable. Some don’t understand the message yet. We see frequent media reports about illegal behaviours not dealt with properly, with high consequences for all involved.

 

Most North American jurisdictions have laws to prevent harassment or bullying of any kind, sexual, psychological, physical, or other types of abuse. Clarification and communication are still required, however, to effectively deal with these issues, on what is, and is not, appropriate.

 

In some workplaces, these behaviours may continue. Where that happens, negative impacts follow for Crew Members, Leaders and their film projects, overall.

 

Harassment is not… Harassment is…
Normal communication, performance reviews, coaching, employee relations interventions on issues. It is not normal, good natured joking or workplace banter, not intended to harm. Insulting, demeaning, lewd, or suggestive abusive or threatening comments or actions that annoy or distress the person receiving them, or, others who witness it.

 

Harassment is, however, defined by the person(s) receiving these actions, so what may offend one person, may not offend another. (We can, however, still joke at work.)

We need to work to a higher standard, though, as not everyone understands the limits on our comments or actions in the workplace, to work within well-accepted norms.

 

As Film Crew Leaders, we can prevent such issues, by ensuring,

  • All Crew Members understand the issues of harassment and bullying
  • All Crew Members know you run a respectful workplace, with no harassment or bullying
  • All Crew Members know what to do if harassed, bullied, or witnessing it
  • Having a credible action plan to address such issues, if and when they happen

Allowing harassment or bullying on the job may result in turnover, accidents, poor performance, absenteeism, lawsuits, negative reputations and/or Human Rights complaints. All are avoidable.

Short Shots (Setting the Stage)

 

Employers’ No. 1 Obligation-Keep Employees safe.

Harassment and bullying are illegal under both Manitoba’s Human Rights and Workplace Safety & Health laws. They can cause stress, identified as a workplace illness, a huge, workplace issue.

 

Higher Workplace Standards

We all enjoy increasingly higher standards, as customers, patients, citizens, and, not surprisingly, as Employees. Some workplaces are better than others, so we need to protect & retain talent.

 

A Poor Enforcement Record

Similar to Safety, some Employers don’t have the best record when it comes to preventing harassment and abuse in the workplace. Sometimes people are slow to change.

 

While some Employers establish and maintain positive, respectful workplaces, Employees,

  • May not clearly understand what their rights are,
  • May not clearly understand what defines harassment and bullying
  • May be skeptical about proper enforcement,
  • May be hesitant to raise issues or complaints for many reasons.

Our Challenge as Film Industry Leaders are,

  1. To learn the details of this difficult issue
  2. To establish clear, practical workplace communication & practices to prevent problems
  3. To reinforce those practices to ensure they work
  4. To be aware of potential problems and intervene to curb them
  5. To act in a prompt, balanced way when issues arise, respecting the rights of each party

Fine, but what do I do?

 

1-Learn what these terms mean

Harassment is defined by the victim-this can vary between individuals, as some may be more sensitive than others. (Generally, “What would an unbiased, neutral third party observer say?”)

 

The list is long, but it includes unwelcome comments behaviours or actions such as,

  • sexual, racist or hateful jokes expressed verbally or posted material, etc,
  • unwanted sexual advances,
  • intimidating comments or physical behaviour
  • ongoing, persistent hazing or other unwelcome behaviour.

These unwelcome comments or actions may be either an ongoing pattern, or one significantly disturbing event. As you can imagine, persistent, ongoing harassment could be considered psychological harassment.

What are the protected grounds under Manitoba Human Rights Code?

The Code prohibits unreasonable discrimination based on these “protected characteristics.”

 

  • Ancestry
  • Nationality or national origin
  • Ethnic background or origin
  • Religion or creed, or religious belief, religious association or religious activity
  • Age
  • Sex, including gender-determined characteristics, such as pregnancy
  • Gender-identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital or family status
  • Source of income
  • Political belief, political association or political activity
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Social disadvantage

 

In addition to these listed characteristics, The Code prohibits discrimination that is based on other group stereotypes, rather than on individual merit.

2-Establish clear, practical communication & practices

Your policy should be clear to be understood by all, such as,

  • In our respectful workplace, we expect all to work respectfully for a smooth film project
  • Anyone who feels harassed or bullied, should tell the other person to stop, if this does not work, advise your Leader or Supervisor promptly
  • Complaints will be taken seriously, respecting all parties, and resolved either, informally, or through a fair, formal process
  • All such issues are confidential and all are expected to respect that.

Take complaints very seriously, as,

  • If unaddressed, impacts are high (legal, financial, employee relations, reputations, etc)
  • Employees already have a “healthy skepticism” and may be reluctant to complain
  • You have a great opportunity to “do the right thing” which builds trust and credibility
  • Some simple cases may be resolved informally through discussion, while others may require a more formal investigation, with external experts involved.

3-Reinforce those practices, by,

Briefing current Crew and Employees on,

  • What is or is not harassment and bullying,
  • Your practices as listed in #2 above,
  • Clarifying your intentions in a common sense discussion
  • Briefing newcomers on these points as they arrive, (clarification builds confidence )
  • Including your practices in circulated notes (Backing up your words).

4-Be aware of potential problems

Leaders need to be observant to what’s happening around them. Be alert to,

  • jokes/comments that have “an edge” to them (what would neutral observers think?)
  • comments or actions that appear to “cross the line”
  • obviously offensive comments or bullying of any kind

Situations may range in seriousness

As stated earlier-you can (and likely should) joke at work, however, harassment is in the eye of the beholder, so what one may laugh off, another may find offensive.

Some Crew may roll with any comments, yet others, are less adapted to such environments (or, newcomers may not understand proper work protocol and need coaching.)

Hopefully the preventive measures you have already taken enable your Crew to work in a positive, hassle free environment. Most workplaces are that way. Your actions and responses, however, set the tone for your workplace, protecting you and your Team from nasty situations.

 

Actions to consider

Understand the Crew you are already familiar with. Decide if there are any who could use a little “pre-coaching” to tone down their language or behaviour. Also think about new Crew Members.

Make a short, simple announcement that you want a successful production, and want to ensure all safety & professional behaviours are maintained, so all can perform well, without being hassled. If they are hassled, “See me!” A short, clear message raises the overall tone.

On Day 1, with new Crew Members specifically, reinforce your safety and no harassment messages. Note-Such early interactions with newcomers are critical in forming your relationship

Keep an “ear” on things and take anyone aside who could tone up their language or behaviour.

 

Have a plan in case a serious issue arises, hopefully you never have to use it.

There can be both, informal, or formal resolutions of complaints in this area. For example,

-Informal-sometimes, an informal discussion approach may resolve issues between parties,

-Formal-unless you have experience in these matters, call in an experienced investigator.

Advice-This is merely a quick reference note on preventing these problems, and does not presume to be a detailed, guide on a serious issue. You really need to download the full details from the Workplace Safety and Health website to fully understand the steps involved.

 

Here are key points you need to be aware of,

1-This is serious business, with legal implications, so following proper steps is important.

2-Safety and confidentiality are critical to protect both parties, even after the issue is settled.

3-Get very detailed reports from the Complainant, and then the Respondent.

Key point-stress with both parties that they need to state everything that took place,

a-even if it reflects poorly on them, they need to be specific about events. If an investigation

reveals they excluded certain information, their credibility will be questioned,

b-each party has a right to see the report of what the other person said.

 

4-If unsatisfied, people have six (6) months to take issues to the Human Rights Commission.