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Help Prevent a Culture of Silence In Your Workplace

One of the statistics that struck me the most about sexual harassment in the workplace is that over 70% of those who have experienced sexual harassment at work did not report the incident(s) to anyone. A survey done by Angus Reid in 2014 suggests that some of the reasons people don’t report are that they feel they are capable of handling the situation on their own (44%), they feel the harassment was not severe enough to report it (26%), they weren’t sure if what they experienced was sexual harassment (16%), they were concerned that their employer would not react well to the disclosure or that it would hurt their career (21%) or that they were too embarrassed to report (16%).

If I was someone in a position of influence in my workplace such as a business owner, a manager/supervisor, a board member or human resources personnel, these statistics should be very concerning to me. They suggest that in many of your workplaces there are employees who are suffering in silence. Some of the potential consequences of experiencing sexual harassment include feeling as if you don’t belong in the workplace, lack of motivation, a sense of being dissatisfied with a job and wanting to quit. As a result, workplaces that ignore sexual harassment often end up with a high level of turnover and absenteeism, have poor employee morale and low productivity, all of which affects the economic viability of your business.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to do what you can to create a positive workplace culture where people treat each other with courtesy, respect, concern for others, appreciation and honesty. Here are some tips on how to improve the culture in your workplace:

· Start by doing an anonymous survey of all employees to determine how they view the workplace culture and whether they have experienced harassment at the hands of co-workers, supervisors or clients/customers. (There are many free survey questionnaires available online you can use as examples for this)

· Have a clear policy in your workplace about harassment and provide mandatory training to management and employees in which they learn about how to report any incidents and are encouraged to do so.

· Make it clear that harassment, and in particular sexual harassment, will not be tolerated in your workplace and what types of behaviour constitute harassment so that the boundaries are clear.

· Be careful who you hire and check their references before making a job offer to ensure that there they have no prior history of harassment as this type of behaviour often becomes a pattern.

· Set a positive supportive tone by modeling this type of behaviour. Something as simple as recognizing accomplishments and contributions can go a long way to improving work culture.

· Offer a variety of team building activities and ways in which employees can socialize safely with each other.

The Legal Clinic is offering a free virtual workshop on October 30th, 2020 at 12 p.m. with more information about how to create a positive workplace culture in your workplace free from sexual harassment. There is no need to register for the event and everyone is welcome to participate. Participants will receive a certificate of participation upon request. Simply click on the link to join the workshop:

Meeting ID: 827 4238 8764 /Passcode: 916291

For more information about The Legal Clinic’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Project please contact Anne-Marie Langan at 613-264-7153, or visit our website at

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