No harm intended? Think again (Guest commentary)

In harassment, intent matters little when impact of behaviour is negative
By Sharon Bar-David
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/07/2009

HR professionals are entrusted to deal with respect-related issues and, when harassment occurs, take action to resolve it. Unfortunately, many HR professionals and managers suffer from erroneous thinking that prevents them from doing what needs to be done. They often dismiss a complaint or ignore questionable behaviours. They get themselves (and the perpetrator) off the hook by saying the person engaging in those behaviours intended no harm.

A blind spot often exists in those grey situations that do not involve blatantly problematic behaviours, such as racist comments or unwanted sexual advances. The flawed rationale seems to be: “If the source did not intend to harm, perhaps it is the impacted person who should acquire a thicker skin.”

When someone complains about George’s temper tantrums and sarcastic ways, we may suggest the affected person become a little less like Velcro and a lot more like Teflon.