February 24th marks Pink Shirt Day (or Anti-Bullying Day), which has been initiated as a way for people of all ages to show their solidarity against bullying and harassment in schools and workplaces. This year, the theme continues to be “lift each other up”.
Last year, around this time, we posted on this topic, specifically focusing on Pink Shirt Day’s background and what employers can do to support and encourage it. With continued importance on how employers can and should take steps to prevent and address bullying, we take the opportunity to address the unique circumstances brought about as a result of COVID-19.
We needn’t state how much of an impact the pandemic has had, and the fact that the vast majority of us are experiencing COVID fatigue. However, exactly ‘how’ it’s impacting individuals can differ significantly and isn’t always obvious. We know of course that there are varying perspectives on what is true, real and/or safe. And despite safety protocol set by WorkSafe BC for the workplace, some individuals don’t always follow them, while others take even stricter measures. Now, with the onset of vaccines, there are considerable variations amongst individuals in how they perceive vaccine safety, and their willingness to participate.
With the above in mind, the overall toll on our collective mental health is perhaps greater than it’s ever been – which can lead to both hidden and overt forms of unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.
In addition to the steps and guidelines we provided last February, this year, it’s increasingly important to check in regularly with your employees, and to both address and shut down inappropriate behaviour immediately.
Don’t assume that because some, most, or all employees are working remotely (as may be the case in your organization) that bullying and other forms of unacceptable behaviour aren’t occurring. Bullying doesn’t have to be in-person or even face-to-face to be real. We have seen first-hand unacceptable conduct in video conference meetings, in emails, and by means of employees repeatedly not addressing, paying attention to, or including co-workers. Bullying and harassment that isn’t as visible to others can be even more impactful and damaging.
Pink Shirt Day is an opportunity to take a collective stand and show support against bullying and harassment. It should also serve as a reminder to take steps to ensure your workplace is free from unacceptable behaviour in all its forms.
We encourage you and your organization to lift each other up on Pink Shirt Day. To purchase t-shirts and face masks and for details on how else to support the initiative, visit the Pink Shirt Day website. You can also opt to buy an Indigenous pink shirt.