If my employer (manager, supervisor, boss) makes it mandatory for me to take this training, isn’t that bullying?

Nova Scotia’s Occupational health and Safety Act states that “Every employer has a duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace”. The NSGEU’s position is that bullying is an act of workplace violence; further, the World Health Organization states that workplace bullying is the most significant threat to workplace health and safety today.

Therefore as part of the employer’s Duty of Care/or Standard of Care the employer has a responsibility to address bullying in the workplace as a health and safety concern. The OHS Act (section 13) and in fact s.13(1)(c)&(d) require an employer do this training where they feel this is a concern (hazard) or where it could become a workplace hazard. This training is no different than other training done in workplaces, e.g., WHMIS, First aid) to ensure worker’s Health and Safety. It is about identifying the hazard; assessing it for potential harm; developing measures to control the hazard (in this case information); and, implementing those control measures (training workers on how to handle situations).

If my employer already has a respectful workplace policy do we need a policy on workplace bullying?

Most respectful workplace policies have single statement or brief paragraph saying bullying and harassment will not be tolerated. It not only gets lost in the print but is a specific and separate issue. A respectful workplace policy should define what is required and expected in workplace conduct, e.g., Respect;” to behave in a way so as not to cause discomfort to another; or to behave in a way to remove discomfort.

A workplace bullying policy would identify specifically what is not acceptable, the process(es) to address, importantly where to get help and sanctions involved.

This also addresses how people are motivated – toward respect, or away from bullying. This is influenced by individual personality, character and experience. Because we maintain bullying in the workplace is a particular Occupational Health & Safety Concern, policy needs to reflect this.

Is there research to demonstrate that Bullying is the early result of other forms of violence in the womb, in the early G&D period or is there a personality type more prone to this abuse?

There is research which supports that the experience of early childhood abuse significantly impacts personality development. So it is seen to be involved in later bullying, whether one is the target, or the bully. For example, under duress, when one’s expectations of the workplace are not being met, individuals may experience feelings of fear (anxiety), powerlesseness (trust) and anger (hostility) which may be projected outward into the work setting and onto co- workers. There is also a body of research which looks at the role of unconscious emotional factors which can find expression in people’s physical symptoms.

Certainly children who are born underweight and remain small for their age can be more vulnerable to being bullied.

People become the targets of bully’s tend to want to go to work and do a job well. We have said they are often well-liked, or have special skills that the bully is envious of. There is the tendency for the target to initially work more diligently, feeling they have to prove them self to the bully. The bully targets an individual who tends to not like conflict, the accommodating personality.

What is EAP?

EAP stands for Employee Assistance Program. If your employer offers this program it is usually available 24 hours a day and can be accessed by telephone. This is a confidential service for the employee, and you don’t have to be in crises to call and inquire if the service may be of benefit to you.

What can I do if I don’t have a plan to cover me for counseling, coaching or other help and mental health has a wait list?

If you are really in distress or facing a crisis you can call the Mental Health Mobile Crises Unit. 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Although they service the catchment area of Halifax Regional Municipality they will accept calls from anyone. They will help in accessing services in your own community, if you are outside of their catchment area.

Agencies such as the Family Services Association has a sliding fee scale, and may charge a nominal fee (e.g., 20 dollars) per session. For inquiry you can call 902-420-1980 or 1-888-886-5552 (toll free) or email intake@fshalifax.com . Again they may be able to connect you to resources in your community.

Also, look at your Contact Sheet and consider who may be an ally for you. Someone you trust. They do not need to know all the details of your situation but they will offer support to you. Their role is not to try and problem solve necessarily but to help you manage through a difficult time.

Why does the grievance process take so long? “It doesn’t seem like it’s worth it”.

The grievance process, which is set out in each NSGEU Collective Agreement, provides an avenue for the Union to assist members where the Employer has violated the Collective Agreement. The grievance process typically contains two or three steps, and if the grievance is not settled during the process, it may be forwarded to arbitration. Time lines for each step may be extended by mutual agreement, and the parties do try to meet to resolve the situation. Often, the collection of evidence, and the investigation of events can lead to delay. Fashioning an appropriate remedy can also be a complex undertaking. One of the advantages of a grievance is that it is a legal process which the Employer is required to follow, and so, a situation of bullying may in fact be addressed more systematically and thoroughly than through informal discussion or other types of complaint procedures.

At what stage is legislation at in NS for incorporating anti bullying?

The Human Rights Commission can look at a complaint of bullying and harassment, if there is a prohibited ground.

Nova Scotia’s Occupational health and Safety Act (2007) Section 82 requires an employer to take ‘reasonable measures to minimize and, to the extent possible, eliminate the risk of violence. Check out their web site.

The NSGEU is working with the WCB to have bullying looked at as a work related injury. The Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada can provide information on where the legislation sits for the various provinces and territories

How can I get a reference from my employer when I leave my job and my manager was my bully and the reason to leave?

If you feel able you can ask for a written letter asking the employer to comment on your work. You may get a favorable response as you are leaving, however you will also gather information on what the employer would actually say about you.

It is entirely appropriate to ask a colleague for a reference, and that person(s) may in fact know more about your actual job skills and performance.

Never ‘bad-mouth’ your employer to a prospective employer, you can say something like we have quite different working styles and provide an alternative reference who you believe will better describe your attributes. You may be able to speak well of your employer and avoid speaking of a particular manager,

If you absolutely have to provide a reference from your present manager, offer additional references from respected sources, e.g., former teachers, former employers, colleagues, respected community members, volunteer or committees you have been involved with to balance. The prospective employer may be able to ‘read between the lines’. Do not volunteer that ‘we didn’t get along’ or that “s/he didn’t like me.”

Depending on your area of work you may explain that you would prefer your present employer not know that you are actively job seeking, although you will give them appropriate notice.

What if I am told I am ‘too sensitive’ or, I am still not sure whether someone’s actions are bullying when other people say s/he is just ‘teasing’?

We know the feeling inside of us when teasing is in fun and when it crosses a line. “People who feel good about themselves don’t try and make other people feel bad.” If the behavior reflects on the other person then it is about them and their rudeness, but if I am made to feel badly about myself then another person has seen vulnerability in me that they are taking advantage of.

The person may be unaware, but it is not an excuse to let the behavior slide. However, the more I look after myself and attend to my self-care, the more competent and capable I will feel to quietly but firmly say something like “that did not sound very respectful.”

How does your program compare with the Non Violent Crisis Intervention program – is it similar or completely different? 

I have taken Non-violent crises intervention and I believe the Working Toward Bully-Free Workplaces Program offers a broader perspective on a particular form of workplace mistreatment which has its roots in incivility and lack of connectedness; is distinct from Harassment under our Human Rights Act, and is on a continuum which can lead to workplace violence. Focus is on the earliest possible intervention in the context of changing workplace culture and the role of bystanders and witnesses as change agents. As we revised the program we promote the National Standard for Canada on Psychological Workplace Health and Safety and specifically Restorative Practices.

What would make your program a good fit for our company (e.g., we are a healthcare organization of about 10,000 employees) 

We have delivered extensively in healthcare settings in Nova Scotia; hospitals, to public health, community and homecare and within all occupations. We delivered to approximately 1,500 healthcare workers in one of our district health authorities over a two month period as a precursor to their launch of a respectful workplace program. Their commitment was that all employees – including support services, maintenance and physicians as well as nurses took part. There were three separate rural hospitals involved in this training.

Is there a train the trainer program that we could access?

We offer train-the-trainer which includes a pre-assessment component by way of questionnaires. Assuming a level of facilitation skill, the training takes place over 4 days. However a unique component involves the element of assessment and self-reflection.  This is not to screen folks out but so that facilitators, and myself, are aware of their strengths, areas to be developed, and as well the potential for trauma.  We receive reviews for the program as fair, unbiased and non-judgmental and to maintain that we need to know where facilitator are with respect to leadership and conflict management styles as well as perceived injustice, as these could influence program delivery. It also assists me in providing ongoing mentoring.

Following the training facilitators are expected to deliver a session within one month… it is beneficial to have two facilitators per session; but experienced facilitators can deliver to sessions of 24-34 preferred group size, or 12-18 workshop size.  With two facilitators scheduled if one becomes unavailable at the last minute the session can go forward, extremely important when people are being given time from work. This is also an advantage if there is a difficult individual or traumatized individual which may not be known until into the session. (the participant themselves may not realize that they have been traumatized in the past.)

We provide the essential message and curriculum but as we have facilitators in PEI and NL minor changes to the material includes different provincial OH&S regulations and Human Rights legislation. The material has a copy-write but there is the ability to personalize to the organizational culture – e.g., healthcare.

How often would you have to recertify?

Following the pre-assessment and training, facilitators must complete a minimum of ten facilitation hours ( 2 hour sessions or 6 hour workshop) and are asked to complete a brief evaluation of each session (see attached) prior to receiving their facilitator certificate.  We offer 1 ½ training days, spring and fall, in order to keep the program coherent as well as to provide an opportunity for facilitators to meet and interact.  I would assume a coordinator at another site would continue to work with the NSGEU Bully-Free Workplace coordinator, around the fidelity of the curriculum, ongoing research and program evaluation; therefore refresher and ongoing training opportunities could be made available through on site meeting opportunities and Webinars/teleconference offered by the NSGEU. We also host a facilitator log-in page to ensure that facilitators are current with information and materials and knowing of updated resources.

In addition to ongoing training requirements a minimum of sixty facilitation hours per year (e.g., 6 X 10 hr sessions, 30 x 2 hr sessions or some combination) is required and mentoring remains available.

How many trainers would you recommend for 10,000 employees

The key in delivering to 10,000 employees is to find a critical mass for employee engagement, willingness to change, and evaluation feedback; in order that the program delivery not be a single intervention. The participant evaluation component looks at providing the employer with suggestions under, organization, leadership and culture.

We are very clear that program facilitators, who have a variety of occupational backgrounds are providing education, so we offer a concise structure – participants will acquire some tools to help them, but it is not group counselling or therapy. As we welcome everyone to the table we also recognize that targets of bullying, witnesses and those who bully may be in the room and some participants may have varying degrees of trauma – again why we look at facilitator self-assessment and self-reflection and hold a concise structure.

Training would include an initial cohort from a cross section of the organization, including various occupational groupings, as well as union and non-union. We ask our own facilitators to be able to commit 3-4 days per month; recognizing these are folks with already demanding schedules, but they have to be able to deliver with enough frequency to attain competency and confidence but not so often it becomes too routine. When we have done special projects such as District Health, or Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal we would have a blitz over a period of several weeks, and facilitators then maintain close contact with each other to support one another and share results of various sessions, as well as questions and concerns.

I can offer a suggested matrix, this is only a suggestion and to open further discussion. We have delivered to approximately 13,000 workers in Nova Scotia with approximately 14 active facilitators at any given time over the last four years. We have learned it is not just about training new facilitators, many of whom have been with the program since the beginning; but job change, job demands, family demands, etc. can limit facilitator activity. I would retrain as required to deliver more facilitators.

However ambitious in a program undertaking, there needs to be time to evaluate, revise and evaluate and implement.  Realistically, for 10,00 employees I would see this being a two -2 ½ year undertaking.

What would your pricing model be? 

As a non-profit organization we operate on the basis of cost recovery for non-NSGEU organizations. Otherwise the pricing model is 800 per day regardless of the number of participants training (4 training days and two for preparation and assessment), plus expenses if out of the metro area.

Number of participants recommended per training session is 10 -14. However, if we had as many as 18 in a training session I would add an additional day as skills practice in program delivery would require the extra time. Participants work in pairs to deliver a practice session of 30 – 40 minutes.