A respectful workplace – one with a shared set of values around collaboration, communication and culture – brings out the best in you and your employees and impacts the overall organizational health, productivity and profitability. However, a recent study by Forum Research found that one in two Canadians report having experienced bullying at work. While this statistic is alarming, there are steps you can take as a leader to ensure your organization fosters a respectful work environment.

Caitlin Hall-Sharp, TEC Canada Human Resources and Change Manager, says that a positive culture is at the core of mitigating these issues, and it begins with the tone set from leadership. “Culture starts at the top – it starts with you. Regardless of company size, resolving these issues depend on the strength of your culture and how you, as a leader, respond.”

At TEC, our members are provided with resources to build and maintain a positive, inclusive and safe workplace culture. One of the most valuable tools in the market is the Respect in the Workplace training program, created by Respect Group Inc. As of December 2018, the Respect Group has certified over 1.2 million Canadians and implemented Respect in the Workplace in over 300 organizations, including TEC Canada head office.

We spoke with TEC member Wayne McNeil, co-founder of Respect Group Inc., on the importance of these training programs and how to be a proactive leader.

Why did you start the Respect Group?

Wayne McNeil: We initially started in 2004 with a simple goal to train all Canadian sports coaches on Bullying, Abuse, Harassment and Discrimination (BAHD) online. Over the years, having trained thousands of coaches and parents involved in sports, we heard the need to develop a program for workplaces dealing with the same BAHD issues. We then worked with HR Professionals and, through a partnership with the Mental Health Commission of Canada (purveyors of the Psychologically Safe Workplace Standards), we developed and delivered Respect in the Workplace.

Where does respect in the workplace come from within an organization? How is it nurtured?

WM: It needs to come from leadership. It can start with HR professionals saying that they need to be proactive; they can plant the seed. But the tone of the culture, the commitment and the accountability must be set by senior leadership.

How does a leader encourage and demonstrate respect in the workplace?

WM: Lead by example – know, themselves, where the line is drawn – and hold others accountable. And there needs to be mandatory training for all employees within an organization. Every organization has people issues – it’s often what keeps leaders up at night – and preventative training like Respect in the Workplace can set some standards and open up the conversation before there is a problem. It’s better to be proactive than reactive.

How should you respond, as a leader, when someone comes to you with a concern? At what point do you step in?

WM: You don’t need to solve the problem, just have the confidence to report the issue to the proper HR designate within your organization or, if it is potentially a criminal act, to police.

What policies or procedures should an organization have in place to manage and mitigate workplace bullying?

WM: Polices and procedures are necessary, but they typically sit on the shelf until an issue arises. You really do need to have proactive training that creates standards, empowers the bystander and refers to the policies/procedures. Ultimately, your risk mitigation strategy needs to be in sync with your desire to drive a positive culture.

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