We all have a right to work in an environment free from intimidation and a responsibility to ensure our own conduct contributes to a positive and safe work environment for everyone.
Examples of Bullying
Bullying is usually targeted with an intention to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate. Bullying actions and tactics can be both obvious and subtle as well as physical and psychological. Below are some examples of behaviours that may be determined to be bullying. This is not an exhaustive list:
- Aggressive or frightening behaviour such as swearing, shouting or intimidation by threatening violence
- Spreading false accusations about a person
- Criticism, humiliation, invasion of privacy, slanderous comments, undermining, destructive rumours or gossip and making unreasonable demands
- Rude, belittling or sarcastic comments ("you're hopeless" or "she's on her way out")
- Abusive, belittling or intimidating phone calls, emails, notes and so on
- Baiting or unreasonable teasing, for example, singing derogatory songs and inserting the person's name or using cruel nicknames
- Nasty practical jokes
- Deliberate and unreasonable isolation or exclusion from work discussions, communication or other work-related activities
- Ignoring the person
- Withholding necessary information or deliberately withholding work flow so that a person cannot carry out their duties
- Removing areas of responsibility without cause
Bullying and harassment are not necessarily face to face. They may be done by written communications, visual images such as pictures of a sexual nature or embarrassing photographs of colleagues, electronic email or flame-mail or by phone. Unless universally applied to all workers, automatic supervision methods like computer recording of downtime from work or recording of telephone conversations may also be considered bullying or harassment.
Bullying is not…
Sometimes we may observe or experience behaviour that is unpleasant but doesn't meet the definition of bullying. If you are not sure which actions or statements are considered bullying, you can use the "reasonable person" test. Would most people consider this behaviour unacceptable? This standard refers to an objective assessment of how a specific behaviour might generally be perceived.
The following are not usually considered bullying or harassment:
- Expressing differences of opinion
- Making a complaint about a manager's or other employee's conduct, if the complaint is made through appropriate sanctioned methods and in good faith
- Occasional, one-off incidents which would be considered to be minor like losing your temper, shouting or swearing
- Comments that are objective and intended to provide constructive feedback to assist the employee with their work
- Unskilled managers handling difficult conversations badly
- Rigid rules consistently applied that are impacting employee engagement
- Poor communication or disagreements between employees
While this behaviour is not bullying or harassment, it may be considered inappropriate or in breach of Standards of Conduct.
Dealing With Bullying
Bullying & harassment - WorkSafeBC
WorkSafeBC Occupational Health and Safety policies under the Workers Compensation Act (Bill 14) outline responsibilities for both supervisors and employees to prevent and address bullying and harassment in the workplace. Employees are responsible for reporting if bullying and harassment is observed or experienced in the workplace.
Claims relating to mental disorders, including bullying and harassment may now be accepted under the Workers Compensation Act. Learn more about WorkSafeBC claims.
If you witness or are the victim of bullying by a peer, in other words, someone with whom you are not in a reporting relationship, try to explain to the person how you perceive their actions and how their behaviour is impacting you. If this is not possible, talk to your supervisor immediately. Supervisors are responsible for taking swift and appropriate action to follow up complaints brought to their attention.
For more information for bargaining unit employees, refer to your collective agreement for specific processes.
For BCGEU, please see Article 1.10 in the BCGEU Master Agreement on the Collective Agreements page.
For the PEA, see Article 1.10 in the PEA Master and Subsidiary Agreements on the Collective Agreements page. Although the processes to address issues may be different the principles of the article also apply to excluded employees.
Bullying by a supervisor or manager
If you feel bullied by your supervisor, depending on situation, some steps to follow are
- Ask for a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your concerns and why you feel you are being bullied. You may wish to call your Employee and Family Assistance Services (EFAS)
- If a meeting with your supervisor is out of the question, go to another excluded manager whom you trust in your organization and believe could help resolve the situation
- If the situation cannot be addressed at the first or second levels, contact your union representative or professional association for advice and support
Bullying by customers
If you are an employee of the BC Public Service and are being bullied by one of your customers, be sure to bring it to the attention of your supervisor.
The BC Public Service Agency supports employees with workplace health and safety and targeted threats of workplace violence. If an incident occurs in the workplace, urgent health and safety support including the Targeted Threat of Violence and Threat Assessment is available when an employee is hurt or threatened on the job. This support does not negate contacting the police when there are immediate fears for safety.
For Supervisors: Dealing With an Allegation of Bullying
You must take steps to review any complaints of bullying and follow through with appropriate action. If bullying is alleged, particularly if there is suspected misconduct that may require disciplinary action, contact AskMyHR immediately for guidance.
You have access to expert, over-the-phone counseling and advice for handling sensitive workplace issues through your Employee and Family Assistance Services (EFAS) provider. To access, call 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 1-800-655-5004.
Proactive measures & prevention
You are expected to demonstrate and promote the BC Public Service corporate values and Standards of Conduct for Public Service Employees. If you are a supervisor, you should clearly communicate expectations, ask for regular feedback from your staff and encourage open communication at all times.
Three courses aimed at promoting respectful workplaces and the preventing inappropriate behaviour and bullying are:
- Building a Respectful Workplace: For Supervisors and Staff
- Discrimination Prevention Workshop
- Addressing Bullying in the Workplace
Performance Coaching is not appropriate for urgent issues, but is a resource for supervisors to improve leadership skills and foster a respectful workplace.