I have recently come across dozens of online articles dedicated to bullying and violence in the workplace; which begs the question, has this always been a problem or a new social evil that has only recently reared its ugly head? One could say it’s on the increase brought about by the anonymity of social media and the ability to bully from behind the safety of a computer screen, or stress caused by a global weakening of economies. Alternatively, is it at the same levels it has always been but only now being exposed by heightened awareness of the issue as we evolve as a society, our general lack of appetite for bullies similar to what has been occurring with the overthrow of dictators around the globe, or again, is it the nature of the hive mentality of the internet, making the dissemination of information instant and voluminous? I would like to suggest it may be a bit of each of the above but the underlying theme in both questions seem to be social media and the internet. If it is on the increase, we as a society need to quickly dissect the reasoning behind it so that it can be stopped in its tracks. If it is the opposite and the publicity currently sweeping the media airwaves is simply due to the internet, then I believe this is the beginning of the dissection I am referring to and we should start to see the decrease of incidents of bullying within our societies. As our reporting and recording of statistics and incidents of bullying, harassment, and violence becomes more prolific, my belief is that we should start seeing a decrease in incidents but an increase of reporting, tweeting and blogging of them as they occur. Social media is here to stay and I believe is a double edged sword in that it can be used to both inflict the pains of bullying but also expose the bully and suggest remedies to the halting of this social evil. To this end we need to:
Show zero tolerance when dealing with incidents of bullying
Provide adequate reporting structures designed to expose the bully
Provide means for employees in dealing with the bully including education
Educate potential bullies as to what bullying is, what won’t be tolerated and the consequences of bullying actions
One can hardly turn on a television, radio or computer in today’s connected world and not be subjected to the views of various groups protesting in some form or another. These protests can vary from a unionized worker protesting unfair wages to an individual on a sidewalk with a placard protesting global warming. The fundamental right to protest is entrenched in Canadian society and protected by The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is listed as a “fundamental freedom” under the tagline of Freedom of Expression. Justice Peter Cory once wrote that it “is difficult to imagine a guaranteed right more important to a democratic society.” This is the “good”, as I firmly believe in a free and democratic society and that we absolutely should have the right to express our opinions, beliefs and highlight injustices in an attempt to right wrongs and build a healthy society. As long as this is done in a way that doesn’t inflict harm, pain or destruction and avoids violence, theft or damage. That being said, sometimes it isn’t always possible in autocratic or dictatorial societies. For the purpose of this piece I will limit my opinion to where I find myself, in a fair, democratic and advanced society where democracy is healthy. The “bad” is when we find ourselves confronted with the ‘professional protestor’. These are persons not necessarily affiliated with the movement they are joining ranks with in protest and move from city to city wherever they get an opportunity to spread their chaos and dissent, usually this crowd is characterized by violence, destruction, substance abuse and even assault. When pressed on the issues they are protesting, they are not able to cohesively communicate the message at hand other than it’s a right of theirs to protest. The “ugly” is the legitimate protestor with a right to protest in a democratic society but doesn’t recognize the right of the defending party to take the necessary and reasonable steps of protecting their own right to protect themselves and their property from destruction, violence and physical harm. Mob mentality is a phenomenon that exists and one only has to look at the recent Vancouver riots to observe how average free thinking people can get swept away in a mob setting; this risk alone necessitates society taking reasonable steps against such risks. Usually those steps involve using either law enforcement resources or private security officers. Too often we see the mob turn their anger and insults against the defenders of truly free and democratic societies. These men and women are our brothers, sisters, neighbours and friends employed in noble professions ensuring the safety of not only corporate interests but the very protestors themselves. An example of this can be found here:
Too many times I have seen people being subject to threats of violence, assault, sexual harassment and hate speech. The meaning of ‘expression’ has been accepted in Canada as any activity that conveys, or attempts to convey meaning excluding acts or threats of violence. The presence of security officers are a manifestation of due diligence and a necessity on behalf of targeted parties. If these officers were not present and injury and mayhem were to follow, ultimately we would hold those parties accountable for not taking the reasonable steps of protecting third parties from harm. Let’s embrace the “good” of protesting in a democratic society, eliminate the “bad” and banish the “ugly”.
In a recent case coming out of Alberta, Canada, an employee’s employment with Home Hardware was terminated after seventeen years leading to a costly penalty imposed on the employer. The employee was in a supervisory position with a Home Hardware distribution centre and was accused of “sexual harassment” by a female employee who was later found to have ulterior motives for making the claim. Amongst these motives was “payback” for a bad performance review and a transfer away from her boyfriend. The allegation came 4 months after the transfer and witnesses came forward stating they had overheard the accuser saying she would get back at the supervisor for the transfer. The existence of ulterior motives by no means diminishes the validity of claims of this nature and the employer has a duty to investigate these claims. The facts in this case show that the investigation was flawed in a number of ways and the accused employee was awarded a total of $680,000.00 by the court! That is a heavy price to pay due to the actions of a vindictive employee and a poor investigation into the claims. As an avid industry insider, I consistently follow stories and news of workplace investigations both in Canada and the US to stay up to date on the latest court decisions and precedents. Although the above mentioned case occurred in 2002, only recently has the appeal process been finalized, therefore prompting this story. As a licensed investigator and former police detective, when it comes to workplace investigations in the areas of workplace violence, theft in the workplace, sexual harassment, substance abuse and even cargo theft, I constantly find myself dispensing advice related to these topics based on my past experiences. I can offer a few tips on avoiding costly mistakes when it comes to internal workplace investigations. This is by no means an exhaustive list of tips but a few I can offer based on the case at hand.
Any investigation has to be conducted in a completely impartial, unbiased and objective manner:
ideally use a third party investigator with no relationship whatsoever to any parties of an investigation
ensure all witnesses, alleged offenders and victims are interviewed
obtain statements as soon as reasonably possible from all parties
If using an internal investigator:
ideally use an employee from a different location
ensure the investigator has experience investigating the particular type of offence, i.e. workplace violence, theft, sexual harassment, substance abuse, etc.
ensure the investigator has received training in conducting workplace investigations
If using an external investigator:
ensure they are licensed to conduct investigations in the particular province or state where the offence originates
ensure the external investigator is insured
Ensure you have comprehensive workplace policies covering various scenarios, i.e. workplace violence, sexual harassment, internal theft, etc.
have policies readily available and easily communicated to employees
provide training for internal investigators and also employees on existing policies
ensure policies are closely followed once an investigation is initiated
HR professionals will receive accreditation towards their SHRM designation upon completion of any of IMAC’s pre-approved online courses
Ohio-based International Management Assistance Corporation (IMAC) has achieved HRCI approval for several of the courses offered at its IMAC Online Training Academy. Human resources professionals will now receive HRCI accreditation towards their Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) designation upon successful completion of any of these unique, professionally-relevant courses, available at http://www.imac-training.com.
The courses pre-approved by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) have been designed expressly to further the careers of HR professionals, and include pragmatic subject matter developed by some of the industry’s top security professionals. Most popular of the accredited courses include an overview of workplace violence, nonviolent confrontation, high-risk terminations and work stoppage management.
Launched in early 2011, the IMAC Online Training Academy is unique in the practical and applicable nature of the training it provides. The IMAC security education team brings together respected experts who will instruct primarily on the realistic application of field-tested concepts and tactics to ensure students get relevant knowledge and techniques to equip them to succeed in the industry today. In addition to its more than twenty courses geared to HR professionals, the school also provides workplace violence training for security professionals and corporate executives.
“Our newly accredited courses for HR professionals are certain to provide a real career edge,” says Rob Shuster, vice president of protective services and training. “We are happy to have our very current and carefully-developed curriculum formally recognized by the HRCI, and look forward to imparting the latest industry knowledge, best practices, and training to as many eager learners as possible.”