City of Vancouver uses anti-bullying day to promote respectful workplace conduct

While Pink Shirt Day started in elementary schools as a way to take a stand against bullying, the City of Vancouver uses the day to encourage a respectful workplace and educate its employees on what harassment looks like.

For more than five years, the City has dovetailed its “Respect Works Here” campaign with Pink Shirt Day, says Anne Nickerson, its director of equity, diversity and inclusion. “It’s a chance to bring some focus and celebration and really encourage staff to talk about what respect in the workplace looks like to them. We encourage people to wear pink, whether it’s socks or a bow tie or a pink shirt — I have a pink boa — and we get others involved, from senior leadership to the mayor and council to our [outside] works crew.”

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On Feb. 26, some City departments brought in cupcakes or hosted potlucks to mark the day. “We’ve allowed and encouraged each department to take on what they want to take on,” says Nickerson. “We just provide the structure around it.”

Also, the organization refreshes its safety talk every February, to highlight the link between psychological safety and prevention of bullying and harassment. “Safety isn’t just about physical safety but about how people feel they belong and are [psychologically] safe at work,” she says.

The City of Vancouver’s occupational health and safety group updated its posters this year, which are posted in municipal buildings and outline sample behaviours of what is and isn’t harassment, and what staff can do if they witness harassment or feel that they’re the target of it. The posters also highlight the City’s employee assistance program.

As well, the organization encourages frontline supervisors in its various departments to use talks with their staff to discuss respect in the workplace, conflict and any other issues. “We conduct training all year long with supervisors and crews and staff on building respectful and inclusive workplaces and . . . how to have a difficult conversation with somebody and where to go for support and resources,” she Nickerson. “It was really to build on what we were already doing.”

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