Almost one-third (31%) of Quebec workers say they have witnessed or been victims of psychological harassment in the workplace. These are the findings of a CROP survey, conducted on behalf of the Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés, that were revealed on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the provisions against psychological harassment in the
“While these findings are a serious cause for concern, it doesn’t mean that respondents are necessarily talking about psychological harassment as it is defined in the Act. We have to distinguish between real cases and situations where employers exercise their managerial rights or authority over employees,” explained Florent Francoeur, CHRP, Ordre President and CEO. “But they do indicate that there are tensions (too many in our view) in the workplace. That’s why it’s important to emphasize that it is to employers’ advantage to introduce preventive measures and take immediate action at the first sign of harassment. That way they can prevent situations from getting worse and poisoning the work environment. We advocate zero tolerance in this area,” he added.
Psychological harassment: well-recognized recourse
The CROP survey also shows that workers are fairly familiar with the provisions against psychological harassment. In fact, five years after these provisions were adopted, 81% of respondents are aware that this type of protection exists in Quebec, compared to 83% in 2007. “In this respect, we have to acknowledge the achievements of the Commission des normes du travail,” pointed out Francoeur.
Recourse: women are more hesitant
Women are more hesitant than men about using recourse mechanisms if they have been victims of harassment. According to the survey, one woman out of four (25%) is afraid to file a complaint against her employer in this instance, versus 14% of men and 20% overall.
“What’s more, gender aside, it’s just as disturbing to realize that one worker out of five would be afraid to lodge a complaint against his or her employer in a case of harassment,” commented Francoeur.
At 13%, respondents appeared to be slightly less reluctant to complain about a co-worker. This figure climbs to 17% for women, compared to only 9% for men.
Higher paid employees also have fears
Lastly, 25% of employees with annual salaries of $80,000 and over claimed they would be afraid to file a complaint against their employer if they had been victims of psychological harassment. This percentage falls to 9% for individuals earning between $20,000 and $40,000 a year.
“These findings are astonishing given that higher paid workers are generally considered to be more educated and more aware of their rights. This result could be explained by the fact that employees in higher income brackets usually hold higher positions within the corporate hierarchy. Being closer to senior management, they worry about losing status,” concluded Francoeur.
Prevention is always in good taste
Lastly, it should be recalled that prevention remains an effective way to combat psychological harassment in the workplace. A stringent, well-publicized and uniformly applied policy or the empowerment of certain individuals to intervene when a potential harassment situation arises can be very effective methods of prevention.