Mind you. I pronounce it dum-bass. And she knows it means ‘I love you’. But still.
Let me tell you the story: When she was just learning to read, we had a fridge magnet identical to the one you see above. In a typical, sounding-out-the-word kinda way, my daughter asked me, so very innocently, ‘Mama, what does dum-bass mean?’, and of course we thought it was adorable. And over 10 years later we still use that word as a term of endearment for our now 16-year-old daughter.
But, if someone didn’t know the story, and just read the headline, they might think that I’m the worst mother ever (I suppose you might still think I am). Calling someone a dumbass, isn’t really all that nice, is it? If someone called me a dumbass, without a clear and loving back-story to it, I’d be pretty ticked. And if someone called me a dumbass in the workplace? Well, that’s just unacceptable! Could it even be called harassment?
That’s why there are so many challenges around harassment in the workplace. What one person might call ‘teasing’, another person might call ‘harassing’. One person might define their personality as ‘a little rough around the edges’, whereas another person might define them as being a bully. And within the safety realm we didn’t have anything to legally guide us about what is and what isn’t harassment. Until now.
Yes, you! If you work in Alberta, you have responsibilities surrounding the issue of harassment, as harassment is now included as part of Alberta’s OHS legislation. And this can be extremely helpful to both employers and workers in defining whether someone is just teasing or actually crossing the line. Alberta OHS legislation very clearly defines harassment as:
“any single incident or repeated incidents of objectionable or unwelcome conduct, comment, bullying or action by a person that the person knows or ought reasonably to know will or would cause offence or humiliation to a worker, or adversely affects the worker’s health and safety, and includes:
- conduct, comment, bullying or action because of race, religious beliefs, colour, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status, gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, and
- a sexual solicitation or advance,
but excludes any reasonable conduct of an employer or supervisor in respect of the management of workers or a work site.”
An Act to Protect the Health and Well-Being of Working Albertans, Definitions
Alberta’s OHS legislation makes it clear about who has responsibilities around harassment as well:
An Act to Protect the Health and Well-Being of Working Albertans, Part 1
It’s clear that employers and supervisors have responsibilities in ensuring that their workers are neither the harassers, nor the harassed. It’s going to take a culture shift for many organizations.
Harassment is a pretty serious thing. I’ve heard harassment polices and forms called the ‘princess policy’ and the ‘cry baby’ form. And we all have a good chuckle (yuk yuk). But I’ve also had more than one worker confide to me that they don’t feel psychologically safe in their workplace. And believe me, it’s not just in the industries that you assume it’s in. I’m not naming names, of course, but it’s in all industries, in all locations, blue-collar or white-collar work.
But don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying that a culture of teasing and joking around on a jobsite has to immediately disappear. We need ensure that there is still that feeling of comradery that’s so important to many workplaces. There are long standing jokes that I have with some of my clients, where I tease them about something or other, and they tease me right back (I’ll keep the details to myself, to keep the embarrassment to myself). Do I ever feel unsafe or disrespected? No. we never let the joking around get to that point.
And again, that’s where the challenge is: What one person might call ‘teasing’, another person might call ‘harassing’. We need to make sure that everyone is feeling safe and is feeling respected.
But, at least now we have a good starting point. I, for one, am really happy to see that Alberta has finally included harassment as part of OHS legislation, and has given us a clear definition and clear expectations for the various worksite parties so that this is no longer such a grey area. It’s long overdue, dum-basses.
Be in touch if you need a hand in crafting your Harassment Policy and Prevention Plan as per Bill 30 requirements. Or we can come and talk to your staff about Harassment. Talk to us about joining you at a safety meeting or a lunch and learn. We love connecting with our client’s workers and hearing what they have to say about this topic.
And hey! If you want your very own dumbass fridge magnet, you can get one directly from the designer: Hug and Kiss Designs.