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#MeToo and #TimesUp have put a spotlight on sexual harassment, bullying, and inequality in the workplace. Gone are the days when simply having a corporate sexual harassment policy on file is enough. Proactively ensuring a safe and respectful work environment for all your employees is a new reality, yet effective tools and programs are limited. In response to this need, the Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA) has created the “Be More Than A Bystander” program.

On November 19, 2019, Reliance Insurance hosted a seminar that delivered an action-packed, informative narrative on taking a proactive approach to support strong company culture, and retain top talent and protect a brand’s reputation. Angus Reid, of Reliance Insurance, has been a key supporter of the Be More Than A Bystander program for over 10 years; long before #metoo rose to expose much large organization’s complacent attitudes to systemic harassment. Along with EVA, the program has been delivered to over 300,000 people including students.

Tools to help create and reinforce a safe and positive culture in your organization.

Angus walked us through the important steps to start a conversation that ultimately will lead to a shift or change in culture that does not tolerate harassment, bullying or discrimination. It is one thing to have a corporate harassment policy sitting on a hard drive or in an employee manual. Top-level executives along with the HR staff need to proactively and positively support staff to be able to know “how to be more than a bystander” and to know it is safe to report on situations that are uncomfortable and can make the workplace toxic. Creating a safe and respectful workplace culture is everyone’s responsibility!

Most workplace programs and policies focus on the improper behavior of individuals. Programs and policies are important, but this approach ignores the role of workplace culture.

  • Transforming workplace culture requires a different approach.
  • A bystander is someone who recognizes when violence or abuse is occurring but does not intervene.
  • Take action to confront gender-based harassment, bullying, and violence.
  • Contribute to a safe and respectful workplace.

Why speak up?

It is easy not to speak up and for many good reasons because a bystander may:

1. Not know how or what to do.

2. Be fearful of their own safety.

3. Embarrassed or afraid.

4. Not want to become the target of the “bully”.

5. Think they may lose their job.

This program teaches people to speak up. But techniques may include tactics that do not even require a bystander to say anything. Every person may have a different way to “stand up”. If the person being bullied was your friend, sister, mother, brother – you would want someone to stand up for them. It may be you have been on the receiving end of sexual harassment and do not want another person to experience it, but the real reason to take some action is that it is THE RIGHT THING TO DO!

How to be more than a bystander

Each person is different, has a different skill set and comfort level of interacting with others. It may not be safe to charge full-on to stop the behavior but there are various ways that a person can be an active bystander:

  • Don’t engage in the behavior, refuse to join in,
  • Take the silent approach, use your body language – by turning away, putting up a hand,
  • Walk away from the person and encourage others to do the same – bullies want an audience,
  • Ask someone else to intervene (e.g., someone in a higher position)
  • Offer your presence to the person targeted,
  • Create a distraction or intervention – this is a solid tactic that high school kids utilize. If a kid is being picked on, create a bigger distraction away from the incident,
  • Have a conversation with the person at a later time to help them understand their behavior is not acceptable,
  • Encourage to get the “job done”, not focus on the inappropriate behavior.
  • Report the incident to HR,
  • Make a formal complaint,
  • Refer either the victim or the perpetrator to people that can provide help such as employee assistance program (EAP), union, HR, management counsellor, community support service, family, friends, elders.

What happens when a crisis does occur?

There will be times when a crisis does occur in an organization and it is vitally important to address the issue head-on in a timely manner. The first is to determine is the situation an issue or a crisis?

  • How big is the issue? Has anyone been hurt?
  • Are there privacy or security issues to be considered?
  • Does the incident negatively affect the organization or its reputation?
  • What will be the public reaction if the organization does nothing?

Jessica Gares, Managing Director of Kismet Communications gives experienced advice to her clients when having to deal with a crisis that plays out in the media. The first and key strategy is to have a plan before a crisis hits. Who in the organization should media calls be directed to? Who monitors and manages social media messaging? Do the C-suite executives have an internal and external plan to handle a crisis? A crisis might not only be geared to harassment but things like food contamination, death, cybersecurity breaches and many more situations that can blow up a company.

Best practices advice by Jessica Gares

At the start of a crisis alert the crisis communication team, source the facts, not hearsay and conduct a situational analysis. Assess the internal stakeholders and then build the strategy. The top six strategies are:

Be prepared: Be vigilant in preparing for a variety of scenarios and exercise the plan routinely.

Be honest: Never misrepresent the truth or facts.

Be consistent: In any crisis, it is important to be consistent in all forms of communication.

Don’t speculate: Stick to the facts. Don’t allow media to speculate and if so, strive to set the record straight.

Demonstrate empathy: Show genuine concern and care in relation to any crisis and take responsibility for any errors when appropriate.

Respect the needs of the media: The media play an important role in communicating information to your audiences.

Reliance Insurance is more than insurance, we can help you develop risk management strategies, help shift corporate culture and assist in media crisis training. Protection beyond insurance is what we do best. Our mandate is to help companies and individuals identify risks and recommend the best risk management solutions.

For further information on Reliance Insurance seminars please contact Angus Reid at 604-255-4616 or areid@reliance.ca

For media training Jessica Gares at 778-233-5372 or jessica@kismetcomms.ca
More: Harassment and Bullying Prevention

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