Remote work may be leading to an uptick in harassment based on gender, race and age
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 #genderbased #harassment during the #pandemic, while 10 per cent experienced #racebased hostility and 23 per cent over the age of 50 experienced increased #agebased #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.
The Globd & Mail
SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
PUBLISHED JULY 11, 2021