What is workplace violence?
Any action, conduct, threat or gesture of a person toward an employee, in or outside their workplace that can reasonably be expected to cause harm, injury or illness to that employee.
Work-related factors that increase the risk of violence
- Working with the public
- Handling money, valuables or prescription drugs (e.g. cashiers)
- Carrying out inspection or enforcement duties (e.g. government employees)
- Providing services, care, advice or education (e.g. health-care workers, teachers)
- Working with unstable or volatile persons (e.g. social services, or criminal justice system employees)
- Working alone, in small numbers (e.g. store clerks), or in isolated or low traffic areas (e.g. washrooms, storage areas, utility rooms)
- Working in community-based settings (e.g. nurses, social workers and other home visitors)
- Working during periods of intense organizational change (e.g. strikes, downsizing)
- Belonging to a human rights protected group that is portrayed negatively or stereotyped in the public (i.e. Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, racialized people, GLBT people, etc.)
What is bullying?
Bullying is characterized by an individual or group of individuals behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person. It usually involves a pattern of behaviour that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade, humiliate or exploit a known vulnerability.
Examples of bullying
- Spreading malicious rumours, gossip, or innuendo that are not true
- Excluding or isolating someone socially
- Intimidating a person
- Undermining or deliberately impeding a person's work
- Physically abusing or threatening abuse
- Removing areas of responsibilities without cause
- Constantly changing work guidelines
- Establishing impossible deadlines that will set up the individual to fail
- Withholding necessary information or purposefully giving the wrong information
- Making jokes verbally or through email that are 'obviously offensive.'
- Intruding on a person's privacy by pestering, spying or stalking
- Assigning unreasonable duties or workload which are unfavourable to one person (in a way that creates unnecessary pressure)
- Underwork – creating a feeling of uselessness
- Yelling or using profanity
- Criticising a person persistently or constantly
- Belittling a person's opinions
- Blocking applications for training, leave or promotion
- Tampering with a person's personal belongings or work equipment
Impact of bullying
- Turnover and recruitment problems
- Risk for errors and accidents
- Stress & anxiety
- Decreased morale, productivity and motivation
What can you do?
- Stay calm.
- If possible, firmly tell the person his or her behaviour is unacceptable and ask them to stop.
- Ask to have a supervisor, a union member or steward present when communicating with this person.
- Document the incidents (dates, witnesses, comments, etc.).
- Ask your union for help: they are there to help and support you.
Responsibilities of the employer
- The employer has a legal obligation to make sure the workplace is free from harassment, discrimination, violence and bullying.
- Bullies need to know their actions will not be tolerated and if they continue then they will be disciplined.
- Interactions with staff and clients should be closely monitored.
- Bullies should be referred to anger management and respectful workplace seminars.
- Referral to an EAP counsellor is appropriate since bullies often have been bullied.
- If the bully is threatening bodily harm or attacks, report it to the police. An incident report should be completed and sent to the employer immediately.