Shawnee Love • May 24, 2018
The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board recently concluded that the suicide of a worker was caused by bullying at his workplace. Interestingly, the bullying wasn’t by peers or his manager but by the elected councilors of the small municipality he worked at.
Those involved sought to defend themselves by arguing they didn’t intend for the man to commit suicide AND they should have been told about his mental health issues. However, they are wrong on both counts.
- When it comes to bullying or harassment, intentions don’t matter. What matters are the results.
- His mental health status should not have been communicated to them. Privacy legislation says that kind of information shouldn’t be shared with anyone who doesn’t need to know. Those councilors didn’t need to know because they shouldn’t have been communicating with him. They overstepped their authority and the chain of command. They were out of line.
They were also in the wrong because their communications with the man were rude and often initiated outside of his working hours, both demonstrations of disrespect, aka bullying.
Their conduct was also problematic because they had power (whether actual or perceived) over the budgets and headcounts of the municipality. They could impact whether he had a job or not, which creates an implied threat behind their communications.
It’s easy to point out where they went wrong, but I want to talk about how to prevent it from happening again.
One of my thoughts is that people who get elected can become bosses without any training or even knowledge of the laws, policies or best practices surrounding employment and the responsibilities of manager.
Is it time to require a minimum level of managerial competency for anyone seeking a political or board position? Could we introduce mandatory training for board members and elected or appointed officials in the laws, policies, industry standards and best practices surrounding employment and people management?
What say you?