How to identify and prevent harassment?

Site: HYY moodle
Course: Equality in organisational activities
Book: How to identify and prevent harassment?
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Monday, 27 June 2022, 7:37 AM

1. Identifying harassment

The first step towards taking action against harassment is for harassment and bullying to be genuinely identified in organisations. Only after this is it possible to consider how they can be prevented in your own organisation and how to resolve potential cases of bullying.

Different norms and power structures operate behind harassment. The structures are ways of behaviour, speaking and thought that are often maintained unconsciously and are a part of culture. They determine what is considered as acceptable behaviour in different situations as well as who has the power to determine it. The consequences of the division of power include the more frequent and systematic disparagement of certain kinds of experiences (e.g. those of women and minorities). This leads to harassment not being taken seriously. The rules of behaviour change when these structures are questioned and made visible. The change often leads to conflict when privileges become visible and are questioned.

Harassment and bullying are always a group phenomenon and a problem for the entire community, affecting all its members. They do not concern only the bullied individual, but also the bully, bystanders and the entire student community and personnel. Bullying negatively affects students’ wellbeing, health, study progress and attachment to the study community. According to studies, bullying is connected to depression, fatigue, experience of loneliness and trust towards other people, for instance.

Special characteristics of harassment in organisational activities:

What kinds of harassment situations are identified in organisations?

  • Touching and commenting veiled in familiarity: ‘culture of intimacy’
  • Party cultures, different codes for different situations, intoxicants, groping at parties
  • The people who grope others are known, but no one knows how to take action against their behaviour
  • Slander and rumours that spread effectively in social media
  • Sexually charged stalking, harassment and pressuring
  • Insensitive ways of talking, sexual suggestions, racy jokes

What is special in organisational activities?

  • Peer culture, volunteering, part-time nature, leisure time (no official obligations)
  • Action can focus on individual events or campaigns (no fixed communities or groups)
  • Social media and digital communities
  • Partying
  • Aspects related to the nature of hobby activities (games, camps, politics)
  • Employees, people in positions of trust, volunteers and target groups all mixed up

2. How can bullying be prevented?

Zero tolerance must be applied to bullying and harassment: organisations should clearly express that harassment, bullying, inappropriate behaviour and racism are not tolerated in its activities and events. Immediate action is taken against bullying and harassment, the matter is dealt with, and the situation is monitored. All students involved with the organisation are encouraged to bring up any bullying situations they experience or witness. The best way to succeed with this is to have the active members of the organisation, such as the board, officials and other volunteers, fully committed to the principle. Drawing attention to the existence of various event safety and equality principles is also important, as it creates a feeling that the organisation and its members are taking the realisation of equality seriously.

  • It is important to create a tolerant and open atmosphere in events and activities.
  • Diversity is understood and accepted within the organisation.
  • The organisation has appointed someone to be in charge of equality affairs.
  • The organisation has a goal-oriented equality plan, and the people involved in the organisation as well as its members are familiar with it. Communication about the plan towards the members is active, and the organisation’s volunteers are provided with training on it.
  • Practices related to event arrangements and safety are clear, the organisation has principles of safe space in use, and its events have persons in charge of problem situations.
  • Good practices of event organisation are taken into account when organising events.
  • Bullying is considered a problem for the entire community, not only the bullied person: bringing up the topic is encouraged, and bullying is condemned by the entire community.
  • Attention is paid to how group formation is conducted and meeting other people supported in the community – in relation to new students, the board and other active members.
  • Activities are assessed based on predetermined indicators.
  • Feedback is collected on the activities, and the organisation’s operating practices are examined through collective discussions.
  • Meeting practices are examined: are they functional and do they provide space for everyone to express their opinion?
  • The board of the organisation and other active members draft clear ground rules at the beginning of the year, and everyone commits themselves to following them. The rules can cover issues such as these:
    • How to work in the organisation, what are its operating practices
    • What channels are used for communication, when should people be able to reach you, answering messages
    • Notifying about absences and being unable to attend well in advance
    • Clear areas of responsibility and division of labour between people
    • Giving and receiving positive and constructive feedback
    • Collecting and processing feedback (both feedback from members and feedback collected from among the board and active members)
    • Courtesy: treating everyone with respect, greeting, thanking, being on time, doing things that have been agreed upon on schedule, helping and advising others when needed
    • The organisation’s communication towards the membership and outwards is transparent and current