If you are a victim of harassment, discrimination or incivility, act quickly to stop the unacceptable behaviour and prevent the situation from deteriorating.
Early intervention ensures better management of the problem and reduces or eliminates the harm inflicted by the behaviour on you and your work or study environment. In general, people who engage in harassment or uncivil behaviour will not stop unless you intervene, and there is a risk their behaviour will worsen.
Talk to someone you trust: a friend, colleague or family member. Keep all evidence and record the details (date, time, location, name of perpetrator, names of witnesses, actions taken, etc.).
It’s important not to isolate yourself.
Psychological harassment and incivility
The experience of being harassed is often similar to the feeling of being in an interpersonal conflict. The victim has a difficult relationship with the perpetrator and may well feel threatened and not want to be in contact with them when the conflict escalates. As a result, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two, and unfortunately, harassment is often rooted in interpersonal conflict. So it is crucial to find solutions for conflicts in your work or study environment and take steps to prevent them from escalating. When a dispute or misunderstanding of any kind arises, we encourage you to discuss it with the person involved using the principles of non-violent communication, a technique that has been proven effective.
How to take action to stop harassment or incivility
- Observe, but refrain from making value judgements or generalizations.
- Avoid: “You’re always late/unpleasant/sad.” Instead choose “We had an appointment at 6:00 p.m. It’s now 6:15 p.m.
- I would have liked you to warn me that you were going to be late.” Making non-judgmental observations helps keep the other person open.
Express your needs and feelings
Unmet needs can generate negative feelings that may hinder communication if they are not expressed or if they are expressed in a way that puts the blame on the other person. Identifying and expressing them means taking restorative action and finding solutions. Each person expresses what they feel and shares their emotions. For example: “When you say that, I feel demeaned/sad/unhappy/angry.”
The last step in non-violent communication is to ask. Don’t wait for others to guess your needs—express them. “I would like you to say hello when we see each other in the morning,” is easier to understand than “Be nice.” Ask for feedback from the other person to make sure they understand what you’re asking. In short, tell the person who’s disrespecting you that their behaviour bothers you and ask them to stop. If necessary, tell them you will report the problem if it doesn’t stop. In most situations, that will be sufficient to stop the vexatious behaviour.
We also suggest reading this document (PDF in French) on how to show and command respect in the workplace.
This short video (in French) defines incivility in the workplace in plain terms and gives viewers practical tools for intervening when it occurs.
Ask for help
If you are unable to handle a situation, you can ask for help from your immediate supervisor, the Human Resources Department, or, if you are a student, the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Department. No form of incivility or harassment should be tolerated and INRS encourages you to report it as soon as it occurs.
You can file a complaint according to the procedure set out in INRS’s Harassment, Discrimination and Incivility Policy, by sending an email to Bureau des plaintes (Complaints Office).
Sexual harassment and sexual violence are destabilizing and can cause considerable hardship. It’s important to ask for help and confide in someone you trust.
Above all, don’t blame yourself. The only individuals responsible for sexual harassment and sexual violence are those who commit them. If possible, tell the perpetrator that their sexual actions or comments bother you and are unacceptable. If necessary, tell them you will report the problem if it doesn’t stop. In most situations, doing so will be enough to stop the harassment. If the situation persists or you don’t feel capable of intervening alone, don’t hesitate to ask for help from an authority figure (manager, professor, student association or student services officer, department head, chief executive officer, etc.), or by calling INRS’s specialized resource at 1-888-401-VACS (8227).
If you are concerned for your safety, call 911.