Talk to Them

    • One way to help the person to understand the impact of their behavior and request a change is to talk to them. This approach feels the most informal to the other person and allows them to see your face (if you are not speaking to them on the phone) and to hear your voice as you explain your concern to them. It gives them the opportunity to truly 'get it', to understand the effect of their behaviour on you as a person, the person in front of them.   

      That said, the very thought of talking to somone whose behaviour you are experiencing as harassment can feel overwhelming. 

      How might they react?

      They may take your concern seriously, apologize for the effect it had on you, and commit to not repeating it in the future. ("I'm so sorry. I wasn't thinking and I can see how my comment felt for you. I will not say anythng like that again. If I do, please call me on it right away." That is the best possibility. 

      A less positive possibility is that they may become defensive. It can look like sarcasm ("Yah, of course YOU would take it that way."). Or they may even deny that the event happend, or claim that your memory is confused ("It didn't happen 'that' way."), or deny the validity of your reaction ("You're blowing this way out of proportion.").  

      When you tell someone how you feel and make a request, you are giving them an opportunity. The opportunity to change and grow and improve as a person and as a coleague. You gave them them opportunity. If they choose not to take advantage of that opportunity, that is their choice. Your next option is to speak to your direct report or their supervisor, the Conflict Resolution Advisor, your Union, or Human Resources.

      How might I react?

      "What if I lose my temper or I start to cry?"

      Prepare yourself before you are going to speak to the person. Get help from the Conflict Resolution Advisor or someone you know and trust to prepare yourself emotionally and to figure out how you want to say what you want to say. If you become too emotional to be able to think clearly, take a break. 

      The Talk

      Before you have the conversation, ask them if they have time to talk. If not then, when? When it is time, tell them that you want to talk with them about something they did/said that is getting in the way of your working relationship. Your goal is to make things better. 

      Talking to the person is most effective if it is done in an assertive and not aggressive way, giving you voice without making them defensive. One technique that can be helpful to structure the letter is the DEAR Technique:

      D: DESCRIBE the behaviour objectively (give specifics) - e.g." When I heard my concerns put aside because I am ________..."

      E: EXPLAIN the effect that the behaviour has had on you - "I felt belittled and now I dread coming to work."

      A: ASK them for their side of the story - "Help me understand the reason you..."

      R: REQUEST a change that is based on the behaviour described, the effect explained, and that takes their perspective into consideration - "I ask that you do not refer to _______ again and that any similar conversations happen with a third party in the room."

      The Conflict Resolution Advisor can help you decide what you want to say and how you can best say it so that it has the best chance of being effective and accomplishing your goal.