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Déjà Leonard is a copywriter and freelance journalist based in Calgary.
Though the technology sector is by no means representative of all jobs, data coming out of the space can be helpful in predicting trends that may eventually spread to all industries.
A recent report from Project Include, a U.S.-based non-profit committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, found that 25 per cent of tech workers surveyed globally experienced an increase in gender-based harassment during the pandemic, while 10 per cent experienced race-based hostility and 23 per cent over the age of 50 experienced increased age-based harassment.
The report defines harassment as yelling at co-workers, uncomfortable or repeated questions about identity or appearance, dismissive attitudes, teasing put-downs, repeated requests for dates, groping or grinding, or quid pro quo requests for sex. Hostility refers to forms of harm that are less abusive than harassment and may not be considered abuse or against company rules, but are still toxic or harmful in nature.
Remote work has been a breeding ground for new, different types of virtual harassment, according to Valerie Cade, a Canadian workplace harassment expert and founder of Bully Free at Work, a workplace training company.
“You can certainly harass somebody a little differently remotely, through e-mails, innuendos and Zoom meetings,” she says.
Personally, Cade has heard about a large increase in exclusion as a tactic, even if it’s not what is traditionally understood as “harassment.” (Think of not sending someone an e-mail invite or a Zoom code and then blaming or embarrassing them for not being present.)
As for the increase in age-based harassment, remote work can cause more challenges when workers need to stay updated on the latest technology to do their jobs efficiently.
“You can get somebody younger, that is faster and smarter, and technology … [can cause] a squeeze on the folks that are older.”
One reason why harassment claims could be on the rise is because companies don’t always match their actions to words, even after opting for workplace training.
“Everybody learns the right things to say, but are they believing differently?” she questions. “To have training that actually gets at the belief level, that’s really important, because otherwise things don’t really change.”
That said, another reason for the increase could be that the increased awareness of potential harms in the workplace has made employees more vigilant of abuses and outspoken about them.
“We’re just being more sensitive and mindful of what not to tolerate. So, it could appear to be getting worse, when really we’re becoming more aware of what is not acceptable.”
So what can you do if you see an instance of harassment? Cade says employees can reach out to the person who was the target to show support, sending them a message letting them know you witnessed what happened and asking them if there is anything you can do to help.
If you’re a manager with an employee who says they’ve been harassed, Cade suggests first understanding the definition of harassment. Along with that, make sure you don’t minimize the experience of your employee and offer support by checking in on them and giving them time off if needed. After that, manage the claim appropriately according to your company’s standards.
What I’m reading around the web
- Wouldn’t it be great to work four days a week and still get paid a full-time salary? This recent article from CBC Radio says it isn’t just a great idea in theory – it’s making people happier and more productive at work, according to a large-scale pilot project in Iceland.
- If you’ve ever been chronically bored at work, there’s a new term for it called “boreout.” And according to this BBC article, it has damaging consequences that come in three main aspects: “being terribly bored, having a crisis of growth and having a crisis of meaning.”
- Remote work means many of our conversations with colleagues have shifted from experiential to transactional. But that may be changing for many as people return to the office in some form. Here’s a little refresher from Fast Company on how to have deeper, more impactful conversations with your co-workers through technology and in real life.
- The call to cancel Canada Day has had a mixed response, with some cities across the country cancelling celebrations. This shift in consciousness begs the question: What could Canada Day, and many other national holidays, look like going forward?
- Feelings of depression and anxiety during your job search aren’t uncommon. Here are six steps from We Work Remotely to help you curb sadness and reinvigorate yourself for the journey ahead.
More opinion from Globe Careers
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a reminder that businesses need to take ownership of their employees’ health Gone are the days where a wellness program was a patchwork of separate but well-intended initiatives, writes Purolator CEO John Ferguson in The Globe’s Leadership Lab.
As employees begin to head back to the office, workplaces can help ensure a thoughtful transition The more we can tap into our emotional intelligence, the more adept we can be at supporting our colleagues through their own emotional journeys, writes Naomi Titleman Colla.
More from the section
My company is starting a mandatory company car program. How should I navigate this? In this week’s Nine to Five advice column, a reader asks if such a requirement is legal in Canada, given that their employer is based in the U.S.
Is lazy management the solution to bad management? Dismayed at the ineffectiveness of so many managers, one software entrepreneur decided that the solution might be for them to become lazy, and let their staff handle it themselves.
Three key habits for managing time and doing what matters most Here are three relatively simple tasks that almost everybody refuses to do – even as we wail that we don’t have enough time to handle everything before us.
Leadership Lab is a series where executives, experts and writers share their views and advice about the world of work. You can find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.
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