Posts in Research

Systemic Racism, Unconscious Bias & Microaggressions

May 10th, 2021 Research

When discussing diversity and inclusion, it is important to have a shared understanding of the common terms used to discuss the sources and mechanisms of discrimination. At Respect Group, we recognize that these terms can be complex, and have recently updated our Workplace, School, and Sport programs to explicitly discuss these concepts and their impacts across different contexts. To better educate yourself and your organization on how to actively promote diversity and inclusion, it is important to understand the differences between systemic racism, unconscious bias, and microaggressions, and the overarching role that intersectionality plays within each of these concepts. 

 

Systemic Racism

 

Systemic racism is defined as, “Organizational culture, policies, directives, practices or procedures that exclude, displace, or marginalize some racialized groups and/or create unfair barriers for them to access valuable benefits and opportunities” (Government of Ontario, 2020). This is enacted through institutional biases that are built into the culture, policies, practices and procedures of organizations and systems, privileging the interests and opportunities of dominant groups while disadvantaging marginalized groups (Government of Ontario, 2020). 

 

Systemic racism can be found in all major institutions, from governments and schools to public and private companies and religious organizations. It is important to note that systemic racism differs from racial bias in that these policies and procedures often appear neutral and may not be intended to disadvantage members of marginalized groups, but in practice, have the effect of doing so. 

 

Unconscious Bias

 

According to Catalyst (2019), unconscious bias is, “An association or attitude about a person or social group that, while not plainly expressed, operates beyond our control and awareness, informs our perceptions, and can influence our decision-making and behaviour.” Unconscious biases are pervasive, powerful predictors of behaviour, even if they don’t match conscious attitudes or opinions (Catalyst, 2014). Unconscious biases impact actions large and small, but are more likely to be observed when conscious controls over decision-making are lowered and factors such as stress, distraction, relaxation, or competition impact one’s control over conscious behaviours (Catalyst, 2014).  

 

It’s important to recognize that everyone has unconscious biases within our worldviews, affecting our actions across different areas of our lives that we may not be aware of, but are perceived by others (Catalyst, 2019). These biases often reflect internalized societal messages and norms, which are influenced and/or created by systemic racism, misogyny, and other common stereotypes and prejudices. Unconscious biases can create many barriers at both organizational and individual levels, working against inclusion, performance, engagement, and innovation (Catalyst, 2019). Given the nature of unconscious biases, we cannot completely eliminate them, but we can develop strategies and skills to override these biases and mitigate their impacts (Catalyst, 2019). 

 

Microaggressions

 

Racial microaggressions are a form of discrimination that is brief and commonplace; occurring daily; and can be verbal or nonverbal (Sue et al., 2007). There are three common forms of microaggressions: microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations (Sue et al., 2007). 

 

Microassaults are explicitly derogatory verbal or nonverbal attacks on one’s race, where the perpetrator aims to hurt or harm the victim through name-calling, avoidant behaviour, or discriminatory actions (Sue et al., 2007). One example of this may be using outdated and offensive terms to refer to Black or Indigenous peoples (Sue et al., 2007). Microassaults are usually both conscious and deliberate, and often occur in relatively ‘private’ contexts, where the perpetrator can maintain some degree of anonymity (Sue et al., 2007). 

 

Microinsults are subtle, rude and insensitive comments or actions that demean a person’s racial heritage or identity (Sue et al., 2007). Microinsults may seem harmless to the perpetrator, but hold a deeper, more painful meaning for the victim (Sue et al., 2007). One example of this may be not taking the time to learn the proper pronunciation of a co-worker’s name because it is unfamiliar, and consistently mispronouncing or avoiding using their name (Montañez, 2020). These types of statements and actions may not necessarily be aggressive , but the context in which they occur and the impact on victims determines whether a comment or action is a microinsult (Sue et al., 2007).

 

Microinvalidations are comments or actions that exclude, ignore, or invalidate the thoughts, feelings, or reality of a person of colour (Sue et al., 2007). Examples may include asking a person of colour where they are from ‘originally’, or where they are ‘really’ from (Sue et al., 2007). 

 

The daily experience of microaggressions is incredibly harmful, both for the individuals experiencing them and for organizations as a whole (Sue et al., 2007). Though the emotional tax of experiencing microaggressions can be felt in a wide variety of context, more information on the high emotional tax of experiencing racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination in the workplace can be found here

 

Intersectionality

 

Lastly, it is important to consider the role that intersectionality plays in impacting the experiences of individuals and organizations. Coined by scholar and advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989), the term intersectionality refers to the ways in which the intersecting and overlapping identities of individuals impacts their lives based on their social location, which includes (but is not limited to) one’s race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, age, ability, and citizenship. Intersectionality is both a concept and a tool that can be used to reflect on how the policies and procedures of a system or organization impact individuals with intersecting identities, who may be experiencing multiple, layered forms of oppression and discrimination (Crenshaw, 1989). 

 

The resources below provide more information on systemic racism, unconscious bias, and microaggressions specific to schools, sports organizations, and workplaces. 

 

Resources for Schools

  • Talking About Race & Privilege: Lesson Plan for Middle & High School Students 
  • From Early Childhood Educators through to College/University

Resources for Sports Organizations

 

 

Resources for Workplaces

 

References

 

Catalyst. (2019, December 12). Understanding unconscious bias: Ask Catalyst Express. Retrieved from https://www.catalyst.org/research/unconscious-bias-resources/  

 

Catalyst. (2014, December 11). What is Unconscious Bias? Retrieved from https://www.catalyst.org/research/infographic-what-is-unconscious-bias/  

 

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. u. Chi. Legal f., 139.

 

Government of Ontario. Glossary. (2020, February 29). Retrieved 

from https://www.ontario.ca/document/data-standards-identification-and-monitoring-systemic-racism/glossary

 

Montañez, R. (2020, June 11). 10 microaggressions and 5 microinvalidations women of colour are tired of, are you guilty? Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelmontanez/2020/06/11/10-microinsults-and-5-microinvalidations-women-of-color-are-tired-of-are-you-guilty/?sh=7b9ef35f6ea8 

 

Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: implications for clinical practice. American psychologist, 62(4), 271.

bill c-65, bill c65, workplace harassment, training, online training, harassment elearning

Bill C-65: Prevention is the Key to Success

April 6th, 2021 Research

Bill C-65: Prevention is the Key to Success

 

 On January 1, 2021, the federal government’s new Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations came into effect, along with federal harassment and violence prevention legislation under Bill C-65 (Anandan et al., 2020). The new legislation and regulations pertain to federally-regulated employees and alter the existing anti-harassment and violence framework within the Canadian Labour Code (Anandan et al., 2020). Employers covered by this legislation include those in the federally-regulated public sector, private sector employers engaged in federal work or endeavours, and federal Crown corporations (Anandan et al., 2020). The three core pillars of this anti-harassment and violence in the workplace legislation focus on prevention, response, and support.

 

The prevention pillar of Bill C-65 and the Regulations address the need for policies, procedures and preventative measures to be implemented by all federally-regulated employers (Anandan et al., 2020). Along with an ‘applicable partner’, identified as an employer’s health and safety committee or representative, the employer is responsible for assessing internal and external risk factors contributing to harassment and violence in the workplace and, within 6 months, developing and executing a plan to implement preventative measures (Anandan et al., 2020). 

 

The employer and the applicable partner must also jointly develop and implement a workplace violence and prevention policy for all employees (Anandan et al., 2020). Training is a key element of this policy and employers are required to outline and describe the specific workplace harassment and violence training that will be provided to employees (Anandan et al., 2020). Both the preventative measures implementation plan and the workplace harassment violence and prevention policy must be reviewed and updated (as needed) every 3 years (Anandan et al., 2020). 

 

The Respect in the Workplace program, updated and relaunched in 2019, fulfills and goes beyond the training requirements of Bill-65 and the Regulations. Grounded in a focus on culture change versus check-box compliance, our program helps these policies and training requirements become actionable, while maintaining the safety of the learner. Respect in the Workplace training provides baseline prevention, but also: 

 

  • Foundational education on bullying, abuse, harassment, and discrimination, known as BAHD behaviours
  • Standards for physical and psychological safety in the workplace
  • Plus actionable tools for both employers and employees to prevent and address maltreatment in the workplace, including a risk management section with information on provincial and federal compliance

In addition, our program was updated in September 2020 to expand upon and explore the important issues of systemic racism, microaggressions, and unconscious bias. 

 

We encourage employers to see the requirements of Bill C-65 as an opportunity to be leaders in their field and to show their employees that they care by creating and committing to a culture of respect. For more information, please see these additional resources below:

 

 

Source:

 

Anandan, N., O’Ferrall, K., and Hanson, J. (2020, July 21). Part 1 of 2: Less than 6 months for employers to prepare for the new federal regulations on workplace harassment and violence – changes effective January 1, 2021. Osler. Retrieved from https://www.osler.com/en/blogs/risk/july-2020/part-1-of-2-less-than-6-months-for-employers-to-prepare-for-the-new-federal-regulations-on-workplac 

 

Emotional Tax in the Workplace

Emotional Tax in the Workplace

March 23rd, 2021 Research

There are various costs and benefits associated with different jobs and occupations, but one that isn’t widely considered is emotional tax. Emotional tax is the state of being consciously on guard to deal with potential bias or discrimination stemming from factors related to one’s identity, including race, gender, ethnicity, and more (Travis & Thorpe-Moscon, 2018). This tax can be compounded for employees who identify with more than one marginalized group; for example, women of colour often experience both racial and gender bias (Travis & Thorpe-Moscon, 2018). Further, this tax is widespread, with 39% of Black, East Asian and South Asian Canadian professionals report being highly on guard to protect against racial bias (Thorpe-Moscon, Pollack, & Olu-Lafe, 2019). 

 

Emotional tax has many personal impacts, including effects on employee health and well-being, and strong organizational impacts, particularly through preventing employees from being able to thrive at work (Travis & Thorpe-Moscon, 2018). Of the Canadian professionals surveyed who were highly on guard, 86% aspired to leadership positions in their workplaces and 82% wanted to remain in the same company (Thorpe-Moscon, Pollack, & Olu-Lafe, 2019). Despite their strong drive to succeed and contribute to their organization, the majority of Canadian professionals who experienced high levels of emotional tax were considering quitting their jobs (Thorpe-Moscon, Pollack, & Olu-Lafe, 2019). Clear efforts to bridge this disconnect between employees’ goals of leadership and contribution and their ability to feel safe and respected at work are critical in addressing the high cost of emotional tax in the workplace. 

 

Workplace leaders play an important role in actively supporting employees and addressing potential reasons for being on guard and working collaboratively towards more inclusive workplaces. Above all, support should be active and expressed, not silent or presumed. A 2019 report from Catalyst identified these strategies leaders can use in the workplace to address and work against emotional tax:

 

  1. Listen: create opportunities for open dialogue to discuss differences in the workplace, seeking and acknowledging experiences that bridge differences across employees. 
  2. Learn: explore the day-to-day instances of inclusion and exclusion experienced by employees, both big and visible and small and subtle- both matter. 
  3. Link Up: partner with employees to collaborate on meaningful solutions grounded in their expertise and willingness to contribute. The value of employees’ contributions should be identified and shared, both publicly and privately. 
  4. Lead: both leaders and employees should be both supported in learning and held accountable to enacting inclusive practices, policies, and behaviours in the workplace. 

 

Additional resources to learn more about emotional tax and inclusivity in the workplace can be found below:

 

 -Day-to-Day Experiences of Emotional Tax in the Workplace Report
-These Diagnostic Tools can be used by organizational leaders to provide a deeper understanding of factors that may enhance or inhibit inclusive cultures specific in your workplace
-Our Respect in the Workplace program

 

Sources:

 

Thorpe-Moscon, J., Pollack, A., and Olu-Lafe, O. (2019). Empowering Workplaces Combat Emotional Tax for People of Colour in Canada. Retrieved from https://kpmg.pathfactory.com/emotional-tax/emotional-tax-canada 

 

Travis, D.J., and Thorpe-Moscon, J. (2018). Day-to-Day Experiences of Emotional Tax Among Men and Women of Colour in the Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.catalyst.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/emotionaltax.pdf 

 

Challenges to Canadian Safe Sport Policy

Challenges to Canadian Safe Sport Policy

February 24th, 2021 Research

Challenges to Canadian Safe Sport Policy: A Summary of One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Struggle for Child Protection in Canadian Sport

 

Introduction 

 

Canadian sport organizations have a responsibility to support their participants’ health and well-being and to keep them safe. The introduction of Safe Sport is a new overarching goal for Canadian sport organizations focusing on promoting the psychological and physical well-being of participants and preventing abuse, harassment, and other behaviours known as maltreatment (Kerr, Kidd & Donnelly, 2020). The renewed focus on Safe Sport appears to be a response to previous approaches to maintaining safety in sport, which followed a repetitive, reactive cycle of crisis, policy response, slow implementation of changes, resistance to change, and ultimately, little measurable or actionable outcomes (Kerr et al., 2020). One major challenge to moving forward in Safe Sport policy is the resistance from some leaders in sport towards independent oversight, maintaining that these challenges can be handled through self-regulation (Kerr et al., 2020). In light of the increasing awareness of the harms that can occur in sporting environments, it is truly shocking that sport is the only child-population institution in Canada that is entirely self-regulating and autonomous (Kerr et al., 2020). The article summarized below by Kerr, Kidd & Donnelly (2020) demonstrates the need for independent oversight, changes to funding structures/requirements, and prioritizing athletes’ voices in the fight against a climate of control in order to work towards a new, authentic culture of Safe Sport in Canada.

 

Background: The Role of Sport Canada

 

The role of Sport Canada is to support National Sport Organizations (NSOs) and Multi-Sport Organizations through financial support for elite athletes and to support sport organizations in hosting events where Canadian athletes can compete at national and international levels (Kerr et al., 2020). Sport Canada’s policies and programs operate under the Canadian Sport Policy Agreement between federal, provincial and territorial governments (Kerr et al., 2020). Similar levels and mechanisms of support for Provincial Sport Organizations (PSOs) are provided by provincial and territorial governments (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

In addition to their financial and organizational support, Sport Canada has also created or supported in the development of new organizations, including the Coaching Association of Canada, Canadian Women and Sport, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, and the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada, to protect and strengthen key ethical values in Canadian sport (Kerr et al., 2020). An additional independent organization, AthletesCAN, is composed of national team athletes who focus on the goals of athlete advocacy and the creation of athlete-centred sports systems (Kerr et al., 2020). As mentioned above, there is a notable gap of an independent regulatory body to oversee the well-being of children and youth athletes; instead, sport organizations are self-regulating in this area (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

Threats to Safe Sport: The Climate of Control

 

Two important themes related to promoting safe sport include understanding the gaps in protection that leave children vulnerable to maltreatment and understanding the shared characteristics of sport and other institutions where child maltreatment occurs (Kerr et al., 2020). First, sport is mainly self-regulated, meaning that when issues of maltreatment do occur, they are primarily handled internally (Kerr et al., 2020). This is problematic for all athletes, but particularly for children and youth, who are protected by specific laws and regulations that should be upheld by all child and youth-serving institutions, including sport (Kerr et al., 2020). In turn, this contributes to the second theme of sport as a ‘total institution’, where both explicit and implicit cultures of control exist (Kerr et al., 2020). This is especially evident in sport at elite and high-performance levels, where outcomes (ex. medals, wins vs. losses, etc.) and control are emphasized by sport leaders, and the ability of athletes to advocate for their rights and needs for participation is diminished (Kerr et al., 2020). This is supported by research that has found that in elite organized youth sports, nearly half of the articles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are sometimes or often violated (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

Research has shown that control has become a core principle for elite and high-performance sport,  contributing to a cultural context where physical and psychological harms can become a normalized, accepted part of sport culture (Kerr et al., 2020). Importantly, this is not to say that the culture of control in sport causes violence, but rather that specific forms of harm and maltreatment are used to maintain a culture of control; in turn, the culture of control creates a climate within sport where maltreatment is expected and/or accepted (Kerr et al., 2020). Similar cultures of control can be found in other institutions that exert total control, such as the military or prisons, to establish a hierarchy of power and authority (Kerr et al., 2020). This climate of control has contributed to many sports becoming highly regimented, with clear authority figures and athletes being motivated by both increasing levels of success as well as fear of punishment (ex. losing funding, not making the team, being benched, etc.) (Kerr et al., 2020). This, along with the competitive aspect of sport and the pool of talented athletes who can take one’s place, puts athletes in positions where they are highly vulnerable to manipulation and harm (Kerr et al., 2020). This can lead athletes to tolerate situations and behaviours that they wouldn’t in other circumstances (Kerr et al., 2020). For example, in education, students may work towards achieving high grades, but if a teacher motivated students towards this achievement through harmful methods, they would be punished professionally and often under the law. Further, many children and youth are hesitant to report violations of their rights, particularly because their main option is to report their concerns directly to their sport organization to be handled internally (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

Funding Structures Promote a ‘Win-At All-Costs’ Mentality

 

An emphasis on performance outcomes, contributing to a climate of control, has been built into the funding structure of Canadian sport organizations and represents a significant barrier to addressing athlete maltreatment (Kerr et al., 2020). Canadian sport organizations are primarily funded through their athletes achieving results, including international medals, records, top-10 performances, etc. (Kerr et al., 2020). As such, funding is higher for sport organizations with high-performing and achieving athletes, and lower or even cut for organizations producing less wins, medals, or other achievements (Kerr et al., 2020). Significant funding for elite athletes comes from a Sport Canada-funded organization, Own the Podium, who identifies in their mandate a goal to help more Canadian athletes and coaches win more medals at Olympic and Paralympic games (Kerr et al., 2020). This focus on winning and achievement may lead to organizational and coaching practices that constitute maltreatment and violate athletes’ rights (Kerr et al., 2020). Further, an overwhelming body of research identifies the potential individual and organizational harms of a win-at-all costs-mentality (Kerr et al., 2020).

 

Failure to Implement Policies from the 1990s

 

In response to the high-profile cases of abuse in Canadian sport in the 1990s, the Canadian government created new policies and compliance systems to address maltreatment in sport (Kerr et al., 2020). According to Kerr et al. (2020), starting in 1996, all NSOs (and later PSOs) who received public funding were required to fulfill the following obligations: 

 

  • Create and share a publicly-accessible harassment policy 
  • Identify two third-party trained Harassment Officers (one male and one female) to address complaints
  • And to report annually on their compliance with the above requirements to Sport Canada in order to maintain their funding 

 

Harassment policies at the time (and currently) were largely guided by a policy guide that assisted sport organizations in the development and implementation of harassment policies, created by Canadian Women and Sport (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

Despite the progressive nature of the developments in 1996, a study conducted 20 years later to assess compliance of Canadian sport organizations showed cause for concern (Kerr et al., 2020). While 86% of NSOs and 71% of PSOs had harassment policies, less than half met the requirement for public accessibility (Kerr et al., 2020). In addition, these policies failed to adequately address psychological and physical maltreatment, focusing mainly on sexual maltreatment (Kerr et al., 2020). Only 27% of PSO and 39% of NSO policies identified a harassment officer, though many of these did not train both a male and a female officer (Kerr et al., 2020). Of particular concern, none of the PSOs or NSOs had a third party harassment officer; instead, the role was typically fulfilled by the CEO of another staff member within the sport organization (Kerr et al., 2020). Lastly, the researchers found that none of the NSOs and PSOs were denied funding, despite not meeting Sport Canada’s compliance requirements (Kerr et al., 2020). In response to this, sport organizations identified both a lack of capacity and will to fulfill their compliance requirements, leaving children, youth and adult athletes once again vulnerable to maltreatment (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

Recent High-Profile Cases Emphasize The Role of the Bystander

 

Recent high-profile cases of abuse in sport (from 2011-2020) in both the United States and Canada further emphasized a lack of organizational and bystander intervention when instances of child, youth, and athlete maltreatment have occurred (Kerr et al., 2020). In the cases of both Larry Nassar and Jerry Sandusky, multiple individuals with the sport organization knew that acts of sexual abuse had occurred, but did not report the abuse to the appropriate authorities, allowing the abuse to continue for years (Kerr et al., 2020). In the words of Mitch Garabedian, a lawyer representing some of the survivors of abuse at the hands of Catholic priests in Boston, “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one” (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

Developments from 2018 and Beyond

 

Kirsty Duncan’s Mandates

 

In 2018, Kirsty Duncan, a former athlete, assumed the role of the federal Minister of Science and Sport (Kerr et al., 2018). In 2018, she took a firm stance against abuse in sport, mandating that all NSOs who did not disclose abuse or harassment occurring in their organizations would lose their federal funding (Kerr et al., 2020). Further, she required that in order to receive federal funding, all sporting organizations needed to establish an independent, third-party investigation process for all allegations of maltreatment and that mandatory prevention training was required to be in place by April 1, 2020 (Kerr et al., 2020). While on the surface this represented an important advancement in athlete protection, in actuality, this was a repetition of the compliance requirements from 1996 that had yet to be adequately met by Canadian sport organizations (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

Policy Developments

 

The Red Deer Declaration for the Prevention of Harassment, Abuse, and Discrimination in Sport was endorsed in 2019 by the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Ministers of Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation (Kerr et al., 2020). Within the Declaration, a specific commitment was made to prevent and respond to abuse, harassment, bullying, and discrimination in sport (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

Minister Duncan also directed the development of a Universal Code of Conduct in sport, created to identify unacceptable behaviours for all members of the National Sport community (Kerr et al., 2020). The Code was created in part through a series of Safe Sport Summits held across Canada in 2019, led by the Coaching Association of Canada, where stakeholders contributed to defining prohibited behaviours and identifying sanctions for athlete maltreatment (Kerr et al., 2020). Unfortunately, the majority of these summits focused solely on sexual abuse in sport, neglecting to focus on the wider range of physical and psychological harms experienced by athletes on a broader scale (Kerr et al., 2020). However, the voices of athletes at the National Safe Sport Summit pushed for a broader focus of maltreatment, focusing on sexual, psychological, and physical forms (Kerr et al., 2020). In addition, the role of the bystander was further emphasized through clearly identifying adults in positions of authority over young people as ethically and legally accountable for reporting maltreatment, both witnessed and suspected, even if the level of maltreatment did not constitute a criminal offence (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

Prioritizing the Voices and Experiences of Athletes

 

Research from a study assessing the prevalence of maltreatment amongst Canadian national team athletes identified the breadth of maltreatment and the need for third-party intervention (Kerr et al., 2020). 17% and 23% of current and retired athletes, respectively, reported experiencing psychological abuse; further, 15% of current athletes and 22% of retired athletes had experienced neglect (Kerr et al., 2020). Fewer than 15% of athletes formally reported their experiences, while less than half of current and retired athletes never disclosed what they had experienced (Kerr et al., 2020). Among their reasons for not reporting the maltreatment they experienced, athletes identified that they didn’t know who to report to; that they did not have a safe or confidential space to report their concerns without fear of negative consequences for their athletic careers; and that they did not trust their sport organization to address their concerns adequately or fairly (Kerr et al., 2020). In general, athletes view the self-regulation of sport organizations as inadequate to address maltreatment fairly and effectively (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

At the National Safe Sport Summit in 2019, athletes clearly and strongly voiced the need for healthier sport environments and a stronger advocacy role in the decisions affecting them (Kerr et al., 2020). They called to address all forms of maltreatment; require mandatory education for all sport stakeholders; strengthen accountability measures for sport organizations; and for the implementation of an independent body to receive, investigate, and resolve allegations of maltreatment, and to apply sanctions in individual cases (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

The Canadian Sport Helpline & The Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada

 

The Canadian Sport Helpline was established in 2019 as a resource to help guide the next steps of any individual who is concerned about maltreatment in sport (Kerr et al., 2020). Operating as a triage service, individuals are either directed to the police, child protection services or back to their sport organization (Kerr et al., 2020). However, as most complaints do not meet a criminal threshold, the majority of instances of maltreatment are instead directed back to sport organizations to handle internally, which, as described in depth above, often results in complaints being handled unfairly and/or inadequately (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

Also in 2019, the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada was contracted to provide independent investigations to support sport organizations in addressing instances of maltreatment (Kerr et al., 2020). However, some of the larger NSOs appointed their own ‘independent’ investigators, who were often existing employees of the organization in positions of power (Kerr et al., 2020). Even when complaints are handled externally, the responsibility for handing down and implementing sanctions still remains with the sport organization, creating a clear conflict of interest (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

A New Way Forward

 

The information above clearly identifies the need for a new way forward to achieve Safe Sport in Canada. In order to truly make change, we need to imagine a new way forward that centres around the voices and lived experiences of athletes and the protection of children and youth. Approaches should be proactive versus reactive and focus on the creation of a culture of sport that prioritizes child, youth, and athlete well-being and enjoyment of sport over winning at all costs (Kerr et al., 2020). 

 

The calls of athletes for a fully independent organization to handle child, youth, and athlete protection must be heard, and athletes are critical voices in the development of this system (Kerr et al., 2020). Further, an independent investigative process must be employed whenever a complaint is identified as a violation of the Universal Code of Conduct (Kerr et al., 2020). Sanctions should also be handed down entirely independently, free of conflicts of interest (Kerr et al., 2020). These processes should be fair, transparent, and accessible to all stakeholders in sport to follow and understand (Kerr et al., 2020). In addition, anyone who has experienced maltreatment in sport should have timely access to appropriate supports and resources to support their short-term well-being and to prevent long-term negative impacts (Kerr et al., 2020). Lastly, funding structures should be reframed beyond athlete performance to include athlete well-being, development, and the promotion of the rights of children, youth, and athletes (Kerr et al., 2020). The leaders of today are in an important position to learn from the mistakes of the past and to create a new way forward where all children, youth, and athletes can participate in sport safely. 

 

Reference:

 

Kerr, G., Kidd, B., & Donnelly, P. (2020). One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Struggle for Child Protection in Canadian Sport. Social Sciences, 9(5), 68.

Keeping Youth Engaged in Sport Throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic

Keeping Youth Engaged in Sport Throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic

February 10th, 2021 Research

Across Canada, young athletes, parents and coaches have had to adjust to the new normal of sport. While some sports have continued with new safety requirements, others have been postponed until next season or beyond. In spite of these changes, youth can continue to be involved in sport in new, creative ways. Below are some tips to support the young athletes in your life to continue to stay engaged in sport throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Staying Connected to the Team

 

Regular video calls with coaches and teammates to train together or just chat can help young athletes feel connected to their team (Graham, 2020). Staying connected with their teammates can help youth to maintain the sense of community gained from participating in sport. Coaches can continue to support their athletes from afar by helping to provide training tips, encouraging athletes to stay active and practice, and to provide social support and ongoing connection to sport. 

 

Continue to Practice

 

Youth should continue to practice from home regularly. Coaches can connect with young athletes to help them create regular practice routines that include a mix of technical drills and physical training (Graham, 2020). Some sport-specific examples of this can include:

 

  • Soccer: Foot speed and dribbling drills such as toe taps, side touches, rollovers and inside-out dribbling
  • Basketball: Dribbling and ball-handling skills such as straight-arm finger taps, wraps around head/ankles/waist/legs, crossover dribble and double ball dribbling
  • Dance: Stretching and maintaining skills such as pre-practice stretches, floor barre exercises, or watching online dance classes (Myrvik, 2020)
  • For more ideas, check out the Play From Home Resource Hub from Jumpstart Canada and ParticipACTION

 

As we move into the winter months, practice space may be limited to the indoors. If you have space in your home, get creative with your kids and create an indoor practice area (Pearlstein, 2020). If your indoor space is limited, try turning household chores into practice opportunities; for example, “How many lunges can you do while putting your toys away? How high can you jump when you’re dusting?” (Pearlstein, 2020). 

 

Find Creative Ideas Online

 

From skill-based challenges to virtual ‘passing’ of the ball, puck, etc. to team members, many creative ways to keep young athletes engaged in sport can be found online (Graham, 2020). Some ideas we found include:

 

  • Creating a family ‘grab jar’: write down exercises, such as 20 jumping jacks, 10 burpees, etc. (Pearlstein, 2020). Have each family member pick one exercise from the jar and complete the moves together. Consider creating jars tailored to different sport-specific exercises to mix up your family workouts!
  • Find kid-friendly workouts on YouTube, like this Parent and Kid Workout 

 

Encourage Your Kids to Take the Lead

 

Have your kids take the lead on connecting with teammates, planning practice or training routines, and creating practice spaces. Kids have had to cope with much less freedom and decision-making since the beginning of the pandemic (Graham, 2020). Not only will this help young athletes feel like their voices are being heard, but it may increase the likelihood that they will continue to practice and be active, making their routines into habits (Graham, 2020). 

 

Parents: Cut Yourselves Some Slack

 

Lastly and most importantly, parents should remember that everyone is doing the best they can given the circumstances. Cut yourselves and your kids some slack if they forget to practice or have a less active day. Focusing on doing what they can and having fun along the way is the best way to find balance and sustainability as we move into the winter months.

 

References:

 

Graham, N. (2020, May 14). Three ways to keep kids connected to sports when they can’t play during COVID-19. Folio. Retrieved from https://www.folio.ca/three-ways-to-keep-kids-connected-to-sports-when-they-cant-play-during-covid-19/

 

Myrvik, M. (2020, April 20). Keeping young athletes active and engaged during COVID-19. Children’s Wisconson. Retrieved from https://childrenswi.org/newshub/stories/covid-19-young-athletes

 

Pearlstein, J. (2020, Oct 20). How to keep kids active as the weather cools and the pandemic rolls on. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/10/22/kids-activity-covid/

Prevalence of Maltreatment Among Current and Former National Team Athletes, sport abuse, coach abuse canada, abuse, athlete abuse, safe sport, safesport canada, training, respect group, research

Prevalence of Maltreatment Among Current and Former National Team Athletes

January 29th, 2021 Research

While recognizing the numerous potential benefits that sport participation has to offer, it is also important to acknowledge that for some athletes, sport is a harmful experience, characterized by various forms of maltreatment. Maltreatment is an umbrella term that refers to: all types of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power (World Health Organization (2010). Maltreatment includes sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, neglect, various types of harassment, bullying and hazing. The current study sought to assess the prevalence of various forms of maltreatment experienced by current and retired National Team members.

The last prevalence study of Canadian athletes’ experiences was conducted over 20 years ago and since that time, the culture with respect to reporting sexual violence as well as child and youth protection has changed dramatically. Not only does this prevalence study provide a snapshot of athletes’ experiences but it serves as baseline data against which to assess the impact of future preventative and intervention initiatives. It also signals the importance of addressing the human rights and welfare of athletes in Canada.

In total, 1001 athletes participated in the study by completing an online survey; of this total, 764 were current athletes and 237 were retired athletes who had left their sport within the past ten years. The most frequently experienced form of maltreatment was psychological harm followed by neglect. Sexual and physical harm were reportedly experienced to a far lesser degree. Across all categories of harm and both current and retired athletes, females reported far more harmful behaviours. Similarly, retired athletes reported higher percentages than did current athletes across all categories. In the case of psychological harm, most behaviours were enacted by coaches, followed by peers and high-performance directors. Neglectful behaviours were experienced from coaches, high performance directors and sport administrators while physically harmful behaviours were enacted primarily by coaches. Finally, most sexually harmful behaviours are reportedly executed by coaches and peers.

The findings revealed significant and positive relationships between all forms of harm (psychological, physical, sexual and neglect) and the negative health outcomes of engaging in self-harming behaviours, disordered eating behaviours/eating disorders, and having suicidal thoughts. The findings also highlight the notion that negative health outcomes are experienced by athletes long after the National Team athletic career has ended. Of those current and retired athletes who experienced abuse, bullying or discrimination, only 15% reported their experiences. The open-ended questions on the survey enabled athletes to contribute additional comments and recommendations to advance Safe Sport. The themes that emerged from PAGE 5 these comments included athletes’ perspectives that numerous harmful behaviours are normalized in sport and as a result, other adults in positions of trust and authority who witnessed harmful behaviours have been complicit in failing to intervene.

Athletes also commented on the ways in which they are silenced through threats of negative repercussions in response to raising concerns, and not having a safe and confidential place to disclose or to report concerns. Recommendations for advancing Safe Sport included: (i) establish a mechanism to receive, investigate and adjudicate complaints independent of the National Sport Organizations; (ii) attend to all forms of maltreatment; (ii) enhance the focus on athletes’ holistic well-being; (iii) implement mandatory education for all sport stakeholders; (iv) strengthen accountability measures; (v) ensure supports and resources are available for victims of maltreatment; (vi) prohibit sexual relationships and forced intimacy between athletes and those in positions of power; and (vii) conduct a climate survey of athletes’ experiences on a regular basis.

Click here to read the research.

The Winnipeg Free Press recently published a series of articles by Jeff Hamilton entitled ’A Stain on Our Game’ an investigation into convicted serial sex offender and former hockey coach Graham James. This series explores the lasting impact of his years of abuse on the Canadian hockey community and more importantly, on those who were victimized by him. Hamilton’s research shed a light on the factors that allowed the widespread abuse to occur, the lifelong impacts on the survivors of James’ abuse, and what sport organizations across Canada have done and must continue to do to prevent maltreatment and abuse from occurring in sport moving forward. Accompanying the article series are reflections from Sheldon Kennedy and Respect Group’s summary of the key messages and takeaways. All of these articles can be found here.

A STAIN ON OUR GAME: THE LIFE AND DESTRUCTIVE LEGACY OF GRAHAM JAMES

January 27th, 2021 Research

The Winnipeg Free Press recently published a series of articles by Jeff Hamilton entitled ’A Stain on Our Game’ an investigation into convicted serial sex offender and former hockey coach Graham James. This series explores the lasting impact of his years of abuse on the Canadian hockey community and more importantly, on those who were victimized by him. Hamilton’s research shed a light on the factors that allowed the widespread abuse to occur, the lifelong impacts on the survivors of James’ abuse, and what sport organizations across Canada have done and must continue to do to prevent maltreatment and abuse from occurring in sport moving forward. Accompanying the article series are reflections from Sheldon Kennedy and Respect Group’s summary of the key messages and takeaways. All of these articles can be found here.

An Overview of ‘The Spectrum of Hazing & Peer Sexual Abuse in Sports: A Current Perspective’

December 15th, 2020 Research

Introduction & Definition

A common rite of passage among many team sports is the initiation of new team members through, at best, bonding activities, and at worst, through a variety of activities that are considered hazing. Hazing can be defined as, “Any act against someone joining or maintaining membership to any organization that is humiliating, intimidating, or demeaning and endangers the health and/or safety of those involved” (Jeckell, Copenhaver, & Diamond, 2018). In other words, hazing is any harmful interaction that involves some component of psychological, sexual, and/or physical abuse (Jeckell et al., 2018). The willingness of the victim to participate has no bearing on whether an activity can be considered hazing or not; if there is any component of harm for the victim, the activity can be considered hazing (Jeckell et al., 2018). Hazing activities have the potential to lead to extremely dangerous physical and psychological outcomes, including death (Jeckell et al., 2018).

It is important to differentiate bullying from hazing; bullying has a goal of alienation, while hazing has a goal of initiation (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, hazing has historically been considered a ‘team-building’ activity, so it is important to define hazing separately from team building. As defined by the National College Athletics Association (NCAA), team building activities are shared positive events that promote the values of respect, dignity, equality, and teamwork amongst teammates (Jeckell et al., 2018). The aim of team building activities is to build cohesion amongst new and existing team members, and power is evenly distributed amongst all involved (Jeckell et al., 2018). Hazing activities are characterized by negative events and an imbalance of power; existing team members hold power over new team members, who must prove themselves worthy of their place on the team and, in turn, earn the respect and dignity of their teammates (Jeckell et al., 2018). To access the graphic, click here.

Hazing is an Issue of Power

Hazing serves to reinforce a power structure where existing members of the team are able to grant or reject team membership to new members based on their ability to endure humiliating, degrading, or otherwise harmful activities (Jeckell et al., 2018). This is typically achieved through some sort of transformative hazing activity defined by a ‘destruction/creation’ cycle, where the athlete’s former identity is ‘destroyed’ and re-created to fit a new mold that is defined and accepted by the team (Jeckell et al., 2018). These destructive activities are ultimately a test of new team members to demonstrate how far they will go to be accepted as members of the team (Jeckell et al., 2018). Hazing activities all involve some level of dominance on the part of the hazer, forcing victims to experience pain, humiliation, and/or danger while demonstrating obedience and willingness to comply (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Many athletes report that they do not truly feel like members of the team until some sort of initiation activity has occurred (Jeckell et al., 2018). As such, many athletes participate in hazing in order to prove their dedication to the team, with an aim to achieve acceptance and respect (Jeckell et al., 2018). However, rather than building team cohesion, this reinforces the existing power structure and hierarchy amongst team members, creating more division and a lack of unity (Jeckell et al., 2018). Hazing always enforces an imbalanced power structure, with hazers at the top and hazees on the bottom (Jeckell et al., 2018). This ultimately keeps members divided by their various statuses (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Hazing & Sexual Misconduct by the Numbers

Jeckell et al. (2018) report that in the United States, the following groups experienced hazing:

  • 47% of high schools student-athletes
  • 25% report experiencing their first incident of hazing before age 13
  • 34% of students performing in the arts or band
  • 20% of students in other student groups
  • 55% of college students who participated in clubs, teams, or other organizations (ex. fraternities or sororities)
  • 80% of NCAA athletes
  • 42% experienced hazing in high school

While estimates vary, between 2-48% of athletes experience some kind of sexual maltreatment/misconduct in sport (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Sensitive/Vulnerable Periods for Athletes

Aside from hazing and peer sexual abuse, athletes who participate in individual sports are particularly vulnerable to experience abuse during the period of ‘imminent achievement’, when they are on the cup of elite status (Jeckell et al., 2018). This period of time is typically characterized by both heightened levels of stress and dependence on coaching/training staff, which can leave athletes vulnerable to abuse (Jeckell et al., 2018). With their focus on achieving elite status, pre-elite athletes may be more likely to tolerate abusive behaviours in order to achieve elite status (note: this is not to say they accept or condone the behaviour) (Jeckell et al., 2018). Other athletes who are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse are those who specialize at a younger age, especially around puberty (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Risk Factors for Hazing

Individuals who are at risk of experiencing hazing include elite athletes, children, LGBTQ+ athletes, athletes with disabilities, and athletes with a lower grade point average (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Teams who are at a higher risk of experiencing/initiating hazing typically have athletes who deny or fail to recognize the authority of the coaching staff, have unsupervised team areas or locker rooms, and have a balance of power shifted towards masculine authority (Jeckell et al., 2018). However, there is no known risk for hazing associated with any one sport or sport-specific factors, including the levels of physical contact involved or uniform coverage (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Hazing is most harmful when the intent is to marginalize individuals; for example, when hazing occurs at an inter-team level, where elite athletes (ex. Junior hockey players) haze pre-elite athletes (ex. Midget hockey players) (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Sexualized Hazing

Hazing can be considered sexualized when the harmful incident includes a verbal, non-verbal and/or physically sexualized component (Jeckell et al., 2018). Sexual abuse goes beyond hazing and involves a sexualized act that exploits or entraps the victim, occurring without their consent (Jeckell et al., 2018). When sexual abuse is perpetrated by multiple people at once (i.e. gang rape/sexual assault), abusers aim to manifest status, hostility, control, and dominance (Jeckell et al., 2018). This, in part, is why sexualized hazing and peer sexual abuse occurs in cycles, where victims then become the abusers (Jeckell et al., 2018). The victim or other participants (passive or active) may view enacting the same abuses they endured onto others as the only way to demonstrate or re-establish their own status (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Peer Sexual Abuse & Hyper/Toxic Masculinity

Peer sexual abuse, along with other forms of abuse, often stems from a need to demonstrate power and rank, in part stemming from the stereotypical expectations of athletes in Western culture to demonstrate masculinity (Jeckell et al., 2018). This is shown through many depictions of athletes in the media and popular culture, where the most masculine athletes (of any gender) are viewed as the most powerful (Jeckell et al, 2018). When peer sexual abuse and sexualized hazing occurs, the intent is to demasculinize the victim and hyper-masculinize the perpetrator (Jeckell et al., 2018).

It is important to note that hazing can occur across all genders, and sexualized hazing can also occur amongst teams of female athletes. The toxic, hypermasculine ideologies involving a need for power and dominance that exist in society are often amplified in sport and can be held by athletes of any gender, in part due to the expectations and stereotypes of athletes as strong and powerful.

Impact of Hazing & Peer Sexual Abuse

Psychological Impacts

While a study of collegiate hazing found that students who participated experienced positive benefits, including feeling like part of the team, accomplished, and stronger, the evidence overwhelmingly points to the negative short- and long-term psychological effects of hazing (Jeckell et al., 2018). Multiple studies have found that victims of hazing are more likely to develop mental illnesses and symptoms, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders (Jeckell et al., 2018).

 Physical Impacts

Hazing has resulted in numerous injuries, deaths and suicides (Jeckell et al., 2018). Sexualized hazing and peer sexual abuse also put victims at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted illnesses, suffering from lifelong injuries that can result in health complications, and even death (Jeckell et al., 2018)

Impacts on the Team

Research from college athletes shows that experiencing hazing led to lower levels of task cohesiveness, attraction and integration; simplified, experiencing hazing leads to lower levels of teamwork and ability to focus and build on tasks (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, hazing was unrelated to social attraction and team cohesiveness, aside from cohesiveness around the ‘code of silence’ that plagues hazing and other abuses in sport (Jeckell et al., 2018). To access the table, click here.

What Prevents Disclosure?

Research has found that many athletes who have experienced activities that constitute hazing are unlikely or unwilling to identify these events as hazing (Jeckell et al., 2018). A survey of NCAA athletes found that while 80% of athletes reported experiencing events that are considered hazing, only 12% report being hazed (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, between 60-90% of athletes who experienced hazing explicitly stated that they would not consider reporting the event (Jeckell et al., 2018). This also shows that hazing may be normalized as a regular part of sport culture, where these harmful activities are viewed as good for the team (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Common reasons for not reporting hazing included loyalty to teammates, being unsure of who to trust (ex. coaching staff or other authority figures) with disclosure, hazing behaviour being viewed as normal, or the perception that they willingly chose to participate in being hazed (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, many college athletes hold positive views of hazing, are unable to recognize that it has taken place, or fear retaliation from teammates for speaking out (Jeckell et al., 2018). All of these reasons exist within and stem from a sporting culture that has created a ‘code of silence’ around abuse and harassment (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Institutions Protect Abusers & Their Own Reputations/Chances for Sporting Success

There is a trend in sports-related hazing for institutions to protect the abuser(s), often going to great lengths to cover up incidents and reports of hazing and abuse (Jeckell et al., 2018). There are many factors that contribute to this. Abusers are often senior, elite athletes who have demonstrated their ability to bring the institution success through sport, bringing the school positive attention in the general public and the media (Jeckell et al., 2018). The institution often protects the perpetrator to avoid negative media/public attention, or to ensure the immediate success or long-term future of the team (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, for a coach, administrator, or another member of the institution to accept that hazing or abuse has occurred amongst athletes for whom they are responsible, they themselves must accept some level of responsibility (Jeckell et al., 2018). In order to protect their reputations and avoid accepting liability publicly, many institutions will deny that hazing or abuse has occurred and encourage victims to move forward without any sort of resolution or deal with the issue behind closed doors (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Victims are Blamed, Within & Outside of Sport

Widespread societal myths around sexual assault and abuse are also applied to sexualized hazing and peer sexual abuse in sport (Jeckell et al., 2018). Many mistakenly believe that ‘real rape’ only occurs outside at night, when a stranger overpowers a victim with physical force (Jeckell et al., 2018). When sexual assault or rape does occur in the context of sport (for example, in private homes, team areas, or the locker room) many view this as consensual, innocent, or occurring without harmful intent (Jeckell et al., 2018). This myth is not only inaccurate but incredibly dangerous when it comes to victims being believed when they disclose and can disrupt their efforts to seek support and justice (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Victims are also blamed depending on the level of closeness they have with their abuser, another harmful myth that creates an expectation for victims to act or behave in a certain way towards those who have harmed them (Jeckell et al., 2018). Research has shown that the closer the victim and the abuser are, the less likely other individuals, including authority figures, are to blame the abuser (Jeckell et al., 2018). It can also lead these individuals to believe the abuse/hazing was less harmful to the victim (Jeckell et al., 2018). This is especially dangerous in team sports, where athletes spend a lot of time together and develop close relationships (Jeckell et al., 2018).

The normalization of hazing in sport culture may also lead to authority figures viewing victims who report instances of hazing to be going against the team and ‘making trouble’ (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, authority figures who view hazing as normal or even beneficial for the team may also believe the victim willingly participated in the hazing and should be punished along with the perpetrators, ignoring the imbalance of power wielded by hazers and a lack of true consent to participate from hazees (Jeckell et al., 2018).

What to Do When Hazing Occurs

The Initial Conversation/Disclosure

If an athlete discloses that they have experienced hazing or peer sexual abuse, open dialogue should be encouraged; this means using active, empathetic listening and avoiding suggestive, directing, or leading questions (Jeckell et al., 2018). The conversation should ideally occur in a confidential environment where the athlete feels safe and free to openly discuss what they have experienced (Jeckell et al., 2018). The person receiving the disclosure should not express negative feelings towards the abuser/hazer; instead, a neutral tone should be maintained and the focus should be on the victim/hazee (Jeckell et al., 2018). Most importantly, letting the victim know that you believe them, emphasizing that what they experienced is not their fault and not acceptable, and commending their courage to come forward can have a long-lasting positive impact (Jeckell et al., 2018). Each situation should be treated individually and emotional and psychological support, as well as medical services, should be offered to the victim depending on their needs (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Mandatory Reporting

Any individual with an athlete in their care or who is involved with the team in any way who is aware that abuse has occurred is obligated to report this to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible (Jeckell et al., 2018). Delayed reporting and attempts to solely handle the disclosure internally can not only amount to negligence and a breach of mandatory reporting, but may also empower the perpetrators and increase the distress and harm for the victim (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Prevention Through Education & Policy

The first step to preventing hazing is a clear, zero-tolerance policy adhered to by the governing sport organization, all team staff, coaches, and the athletes themselves (Jeckell et al., 2018). This policy should clearly define the difference between team building and hazing activities, and team staff should be trained to recognize the physical and emotional warning signs that may be associated with hazing (Jeckell et al., 2018). A clear, reliable reporting system should be recognized and understood by all athletes, team staff and the organization (Jeckell et al., 2018). Consistent and proportionate disciplinary action should be taken against hazers, both to encourage future disclosures and to help prevent repeat offenders (Jeckell et al., 2018).

References:

Jeckell, A. S., Copenhaver, E. A., & Diamond, A. B. (2018). The spectrum of hazing and peer sexual abuse in sports: A current perspective. Sports health, 10(6), 558-564.

 

 

Harrassment in Virtual Workplaces: How to Maintain Respectful Conduct While Working From Home

Harrassment in Virtual Workplaces: How to Maintain Respectful Conduct While Working From Home

December 3rd, 2020 Research

No workplace has been immune from making necessary changes and adjustments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With more workplaces moving to virtual working environments, employers and employees are communicating and working in new ways. These changes have also affected the way we define psychological safety in the workplace, with new types of misconduct on the rise for those who are working from home. 

 

Recent research reported by Bloomberg on virtual instances of bullying and harassment in the financial sector since March found an increase in hostile and offensive language used in the workplace (Martinuzzi, 2020). Though the COVID-19 pandemic is one major contributor to the recent increase in bullying and harassment in the virtual workplace, it is not the sole factor. Research following the impacts of the 2008 recession showed a significant increase in reported workplace harassment, with the incidence of harassment increasing alongside levels of financial insecurity (Martinuzzi, 2020). Strongly polarized opinions about the current political climate and views on adherence to public health measures can further contribute to stress in the workplace (Martinuzzi, 2020). 

 

Finding the right balance between public and private communication when working in a virtual environment is crucial. Constructive criticism and feedback should always be conducted privately between employees and their supervisors or managers, versus in group emails or communication channels. The importance of this was highlighted last year by employees of the luggage company Away. Away’s primary method of communication among employees was Slack, a widely-used messaging platform (Rice, 2020). Their company policies did not allow for private Slack messages between employees about anything work-related, resulting in employees often being publicly disciplined and even harassed by their superiors, including the company’s CEO (Rice, 2020). Further, because this all occurred online, evidence was readily available for employees to document the misconduct that occurred (Rice, 2020). Alternatively, virtual work environments also open up the doors for individuals to be excluded or cyberbullied in private conversations, emails, or video chats in ways that may not have occurred in physical workspaces, where bystanders are present (Martinuzzi, 2020). 

 

The blurring of the lines between work and home environments, particularly for working parents, has been a further challenge to navigate. Expectations for a typical workday, including physical appearance, workspace, and working hours are changing. If employers are transitioning to working from home, it is important to communicate individually with employees about their planned working hours, recognizing that adjustments may need to be made based on individual circumstances (Rice, 2020). Having a clearly defined work day can help prevent employees from feeling the need to always be available, and can promote psychological well-being for those new to working from home by helping to identify work/life balance and boundaries. If video meetings are required, employers should clearly identify expectations and requirements for employees’ home offices and physical appearance, and help to identify solutions for employees facing challenges in these areas (Rice, 2020). For example, meetings with colleagues in comfy clothes may be appropriate, but may not be appropriate for meetings with clients. Clarifying these expectations for all employees is not only a preventative measure, but can help to maintain a sense of normalcy during a time of great uncertainty and confusion. 

 

In order to maintain employee engagement, trust in the organization, and commitment to their work, employers must take virtual harassment seriously and work to create a culture that prevents maltreatment in the workplace (Rice, 2020). Creating a healthy virtual/work from home culture starts with strong leadership, fuelled by empathy and compassion for the challenges faced by both our employers and colleagues (Rice, 2020). Employers should clearly define expectations for virtual conduct in the workplace for all employees, while also working with employees individually to support their adjustment to working from home and to address any challenges or missteps that may occur. 

 

Employers and employees looking for more information on mental health resources available across Canada can be found through the Covid-19 Resource Hub from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). More information on creating psychologically-safe workplaces can be found in our Respect in the Workplace program. 

 

References:

 

Martinuzzi, E. (2020, June 17). As work has moved home, so has harassment. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-06-17/as-work-has-moved-home-so-has-online-bullying-harassment

 

Rice, D. (2020, September 14). Virtual harassment in the workplace: How bullying and misconduct moves online. HR Exchange Network. https://www.hrexchangenetwork.com/employee-engagement/articles/virtual-harassment-in-the-workplace-how-bullying-and-misconduct-moves-online 

 

 

Dark Cloud Summary

Dark Cloud Summary

November 25th, 2020 Research

Cyberbullying is a complex problem without a simple solution, and knowing where and how to seek help can be challenging. Dark Cloud, a Telus Originals documentary from filmmakers Holly Dupej and Matthew Embry, tells the stories of those who have experienced cyberbullying and those who advocate for hope. Guided by the work and experiences of Carol Todd, in honour of her daughter Amanda, Dark Cloud brings together the expertise of those who research cyberbullying with those who have experienced it firsthand to examine the harms associated with cyberbullying and strategies for prevention.

 

Cyberbullying is widespread and experienced by many. Dark Cloud reports that 60% of Canadian youth have witnessed some form of cyberbullying in the last month, while over 1 million youth experienced cyberbullying firsthand. Further, according to Statistics Canada, 41% of youth who have experienced cyberbullying reported an emotional, psychological, or mental health condition (Hango, 2016). Unlike bullying that occurs in-person, cyberbullying can follow a victim throughout their daily life, with the potential to be widely seen and shared. 

 

The emerging message of Dark Cloud is one of hope and leadership. When adults model kindness and respect, young people learn to become kind and respectful to their peers. When young people step in and support one another in standing against bullying, victims learn that they are not alone. Dark Cloud can be viewed here in English and here in French, and more information and resources on preventing cyberbullying can be found through the organizations below:

 

 

Reference:

 

Hango, D. W. (2016). Cyberbullying and cyberstalking among Internet users aged 15 to 29 in Canada. Ottawa, Ontario: Statistics Canada.

 

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