What is considered inappropriate conduct or harassment
Inappropriate conduct or harassment can be for example:
- Verbal abuse: continuous yelling, invective and crude remarks in front of others or face to face, gossipping, mockery, undermining someone’s position or reputation, spreading rumours
- Non-verbal bullying: negative/mocking facial expressions and looks, hostile silence, ignoring
- Social isolation: exclusion from the work community
- Inappropriate text messages, emails and cyber bullying
- Physical aggression: unwanted physical contact without sexual meaning, threat of physical violence
- Sexual harassment: sexually suggestive gestures or facial expressions, rude talk, double entendre, remarks or questions on body figure, clothing or personal life; recurrent sexually loaded messages or phone calls, pornographig materials, physical contact, suggestions or demands for sexual favours
- Hindering work or studies: holding back information, sharing incorrect information, demands for excessive or too modest work /study loads, setting up unreasonable timetables
- Putting an employee, groundlessly and without cause, in an unequal position compared with other employees e.g. in regard to training possibilities, remuneration or other benefits
Dishonest and malicious accusations are serious offences and may also lead to disciplinary actions.
What is not considered inappropriate conduct or harassment
Inappropriate conduct or harassment is not for example:
- Any orders issued by the employer based on the legal right to direct and supervise – the employer is entitled to decide on the required quality, scale, methods and procedures at the workplace
- Handling and settling work-related conflicts within the working community or organisation, even if it would stir up mixed feelings
- Setting targets to the employees and the follow-up; supervisors' intervention to employees' work performance in case of continuous or repeated failure to achieve the expected standards.
- Conflicts that arise due to decisions related to work or studies or the interpretations thereof, even if they cause uncertainty to the parties involved
- Justified and legal changes in the organisation or in employees' duties
- When the employer refers the employee for a work ability assessment after discussing the challenges in work performance with the employee
- Justified disciplinary action (e.g. reprimand or warning) against an employee or a student
- Occasional disagreements or different points of view between persons, even if they would cause feelings of being sad or offended
Dishonest and malicious accusations are serious offences and may also lead to disciplinary actions.
Have you fallen victim to inappropriate conduct or harassment?
If you fall victim to inappropriate conduct or harassment:
- Bring the subject up immediately: inappropriate behaviour must not be tolerated. Tell the offending person that you do not accept their behaviour and demand them to stop it. They may not understand that their behaviour is considered inappropriate. You can ask for a colleague to be your supporter when talking through the situation with the offender. Focus your complaint on the offender’s acts, not on their personality.
- If it is not possible to talk to the offender directly, or there is no improvement, inform your immediate superior. In case your immediate superior is the offender, report the situation to their superior. After being informed, it is their responsibility to start investigating the complaint immediately.
- You can get help for the treatment of the effects of harassment and for reporting the situation to your superior from HR, Aalto's harassment contact persons, the workplace safety manager or representatives, shop stewards, or occupational health personnel. You can choose the alternative that you feel most comfortable with. You can always have a supporter present in the discussion with the offender. But please remember that other people/occupational health service cannot take the initiative on your behalf.
- The first step in the procedure is discussion with your superior. Prepare for the discussion by writing down a short description of the incident: what happened and when, who was/were present. If there were other people present, ask them to give witness of the situation. It is necessary to save the possible email or other messages, because documentation makes it easier to investigate and resolve the problem.
- After this, the superior interviews the alleged offender and all other persons who have either participated in or witnessed the incident. All parties have the right to be heard and tell his/her interpretation of the incident. The adversaries will then be given a copy each other’s description of the incident. The employer cannot resolve any case on the basis of one-sided information. The person you regard as a bully or a harasser has the right to know what in his/her behaviour has made you feel uncomfortable. To ensure the legal protection of all parties concerned, both adversaries and those investigating the case, all discussions will be documented in written memos.
- After the superior has heard all parties (with the support of experts, such as HR or occupational health representatives, if needed) and made all necessary investigations, the employer (=superior or some other representative of Aalto) gives a statement on the issue, based on received evidence.
- As a result of the discussions, all parties agree (in written) upon the actions to be taken and their follow-up.
Superiors' role in cases of inappropriate conduct or harassment
It is the employer’s responsibility to take action against inappropriate conduct and harassment without any delay. Their superior’s role and responsibility is to take part in the disciplinary procedure (investigation, actions and follow-up) immediately when an incident of misconduct has been brought to his/her attention:
- Get yourself a picture of the conflict as soon as possible: what has happened and when, who have been involved and what is the interpretation of the incident by the victim, alleged offender and other possible participants. Get in touch with the school’s HR. Remember that you are dealing with sensitive and confidential issues both in regard to discussions and documentation.
- Remain impartial and seek to establish the facts. During the investigation, it is important to have an unbiased and fair attitude towards every person involved and not to have any presuppositions or hidden objectives for the resolution.
- Have a discussion with all parties: first separately with the adversaries and then, if possible, a discussion where both parties are present. Upon agreement of both parties of the conflict, supporters, such as HR representatives, colleagues etc. can be invited to attend. Have the discussions documented (a written memo). If you are not the immediate superior of the alleged offender, be in touch with their superior.
- The aim of the disciplinary discussions is to find a functional and fair solution to the problem so that the conflict will affect the daily work as little as possible. Be prepared to hear interpretations that differ very much from one another. The parties can have divergent experiences/views of what happened and why. Direct the discussion to concrete facts and try to make the adversaries see the negative effect of the conflict on their work. If you are convinced that inappropriate behaviour or harassment has occurred, make it clear to the offender that such behaviour will not be tolerated and it has to end.
- Document the outcome of the discussions: instructions and agreement(s) aiming at the resolution of the problem (change of behaviour) and schedule of implementation and follow-up of the agreed steps/measures and their impact.
- If no agreement is reached or there is a breach, it is the employer’s responsibility to take the necessary measures in order to resolve the situation; that is rearrangements of work, written reprimand and written warning. The ultimate means is termination of the contract (=involuntary discharge). If any disciplinary measures are required, always contact HR.
Instructions to the alleged offender
If you face allegations of inappropriare conduct or harassment:
- Immediately stop the kind of conduct that is the cause of allegations for harassment, even if you disagree with the person making the claim.
- Keep calm and listen to what the person has to say, even if you consider their allegations groundless.
- Tell them how you have experienced the incident or situation.
- Do not belittle the experience/feelings of the person criticizing your conduct. Try to see the situation from their point of view – what in your conduct might have caused discomfort.
- If possible, try to find a solution by talking through the incident together.
- Bring the matter for discussion with your superior as soon as possible.
- Be ready to apologise for your inappropriate conduct.
- Have a discussion with the superior of the person who made the allegations and then another discussion where you all three are present. In the best possible case, the conflict can be settled through negotiation. The conclusion, resolution and steps for follow-up are documented in writing. If you feel you need support in the situation you can ask for help from the work safety manager, work safety representatives, HR or your shop steward/trade union representative.
- If the conflict cannot be resolved through discussion or by mutual agreement, or if there is a breach of agreement, the procedure will continue in line with Aalto’s non-harassment policy. It is the employer’s right and responsibility to take the necessary measures in order to resolve the conflict situation (rearrangements of work, disciplinary measures).
Fellow worker – how to proceed if you witness inappropriate conduct or harassment
If you witness inappropriate behaviour in your working community:
- Intervene: harassment or inappropriate behaviour is neither tolerated nor accepted
- Encourage the victim to act and proceed according to Aalto’s process – support your co-worker if needed,
- Contact a supervisor, Aalto's harassment contact persons, HR or a trade union representative: e.g. ”I’m worried about the inappropriate behaviour of xx against yy, and I hope that you as a supervisor can take action to handle the case.”
Act responsibly for the benefit of the whole working place: bringing the subject up is vital for the work ability and wellbeing of the working community.
Aalto University’s harassment contact persons: Anne Petroff [email protected] and Mikael Henny [email protected]
HR Services: https://www.aalto.fi/en/service-entities/hr-services
Learning Services: https://www.aalto.fi/en/service-entities/learning-services
Occupational Safety and Health:
Trade union representatives:https://www.aalto.fi/en/services/shop-stewards-at-aalto-university
Occupational Health Care: https://www.aalto.fi/en/services/occupational-health-care