Bullying and Harassment Training in the Workplace

While we are on the topic of bullying… this little story came to mind, and for me it sums up a lot of the problems with the current workplace and social culture.

Let’s start with some background…. I work in a field rife with black humour, it is necessary and well understood within the workplace. The type of humour that if a “normal” person overhear the would be appalled. The type of humour that makes it sound like a person lacks compassion for the clients. Vulgar humour. It is a coping mechanism. We see so much turmoil, pain, suffering, and violence everyday that the only way to survive it is to make light of a horrific situation.
Along with the black humour about work, there is a lot of dark sexual humour. Most of the women partake in this type of humour as well. There are a few who have expressed that they do not appreciate it, so the rest of us make an effort not to direct it at them. Yes, they still overhear it in common spaces, but they tolerate it. Occasionally, something particularly vulgar or rude comes out and most someone will make an off-hand comment about it being over the line or inappropriate – a friendly reminder for the rest of us to reel it in.

Onto the training… Mandatory training regarding bullying and harassment in the workplace; what it looks like, consequences, etc. etc.
Well, my training group looks like it has been hand-picked. Myself and all of my close friends, we all sit together during lunch and are loud and boisterous (and probably inappropriate). Despite being mostly men we have dubbed ourselves the “mean girls table”, to be honest, I don’t remember why. There was no elitism here, anyone was welcome to sit with us, and different people often did; we never excluded anyone at the table from our conversation, and and plans that were made for after work activities were always extended to everyone on our team.

Training is going….okay… until we get to the part about the reasonable person test. For those that don’t know, the reasonable person test is the idea that if an “normal” person was subjected to the behaviour that reasonable person would consider it inappropriate/harassment/bullying/negligent/ whatever you are trying to determine.
On the surface, this is fine for attempting to determine if an individual is subject to harassment or a hostile work environment. However, the problem arises when we look at the responsibility of every employee. Each employee is responsible for ensure a workplace free of bullying and harassment; if an employee witnesses such behaviour, it is the employees responsibility to report it. Again, using the reasonable person test.

Uh oh!
So I have a good relationship with one of my co-workers, he calls me a fucking cunt as a term of endearment. When this happens, I respond with, “You are just upset that I won’t let you fuck my cunt.”
It’s a weird interaction. Also, any reasonable person could believe that I was being sexually harassed. So if a coworker overhears us, it should be reported? Apparently the answer is yes. A friend of mine asked if the relationship between the people in question should be taken into context – the answer to that question was, no. My friends response was priceless! He said, “That’s… retarded. I’m sorry, I’m French I can’t think of another word. That is just…. retarded!”

He isn’t wrong. We went over many examples, some provided by the training material, some real world examples of our friend group. The interpersonal relationship between people doesn’t matter if someone overhears a conversation and believes that it constitutes bullying and/or harassment. The employee witnessing or overhearing these interactions is under no obligation to speak up, or speak to the “victim” to see if the behaviour was unwanted.

What the actual fuck? I agree that there shouldn’t be bullying or harassment in the workplace, but fucking hell, let people have some fun. I don’t need other people telling me that I am a victim just because they were uncomfortable with my interactions with my colleagues.
Act like a goddamn adult and say something.
This is why we can’t have nice things.

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