Workplace Expectations and Values

9 Respect in the Workplace

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe how to contribute to a diverse and respectful workplace.

What is a Respectful Workplace?

You are responsible for your own conduct and for making sure that you maintain a respectful workplace. Your employer is responsible for taking all reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of their workers in a workplace that is free from bullying and harassment.

All companies and organizations are subject to the same federal and provincial legislation put in place to ensure respect in the workplace. Individuals who violate these laws may be subject to discipline by their employer, up to and including termination of employment, and/or legal prosecution.

A respectful workplace is a place where employees are:

  • considerate of one another
  • inclusive of other individuals or groups regardless of differences in background, culture, strengths, or opinions
  • not subjected to disrespectful, discriminating, bullying, or harassing behaviour
  • supported by their employer/management team to resolve disputes

The following behaviours and attitudes are not acceptable:

  • Personal harassment is considered any behaviour by a person directed against another person that a reasonable person would consider offensive, humiliating, or intimidating. Examples include making derogatory comments, swearing, yelling, inappropriately interfering in another person’s work, derogatory gestures, inappropriate practical jokes, ridicule, gossip, reckless disregard or denial of another’s rights, improper use of power or authority, or physical assault.
  • Bullying is a repeated or systematic behaviour—physical, verbal, or psychological—that is intended to belittle, intimidate, coerce, or isolate another person.
  • Discrimination is unfair differential treatment of an individual or group based on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, age, or unrelated criminal conviction.
  • Discriminatory harassment is abusive, unfair, offensive, or demeaning treatment of a person or group that interferes with work or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive workplace.
  • Sexual harassment is conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted or unwelcome.

Promoting a Respectful Workplace

To ensure that your behaviour promotes a respectful workplace, consider the following:

  • Before acting, consider the impact of your words or actions on others. How would it feel to be on the receiving end?
  • Recognize and respect the differences of your co-workers.
  • Monitor your communications: verbal, written, body language, and listening.
  • Gain a better understanding of yourself and the triggers that set you off. This will allow you to better control your reactions and act appropriately instead of in haste or anger.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and be proactive in resolving conflict with your employer or co-workers.
  • Base your decisions on facts rather than assumptions.
  • Remember that you are not at the centre of all activities, and look at the bigger picture.
  • Don’t sit on the sidelines when you fear or see a co-worker being harassed or bullied. Complacency allows inappropriate behaviour to continue and escalate.
  • If you encounter a problem in the workplace, be proactive in resolving it in an appropriate way.

In the following videos, James Williams and Neil Thevarge talk about facing and dealing with racism at work.


If you’ve witnessed or experienced bullying and harassment, as described by WorkSafe BC, in your workplace, there are steps you can take to ensure it is dealt with by your employer.

You can contact the BC Human Rights Clinic if you think that you are experiencing a human rights violation.

Legislation Governing Acceptable Behavior

Workers Compensation Act

The Workers Compensation Act outlines the general duties for employers, workers, and supervisors. In the case of bullying or harassment in the workplace, an employer is required to take all reasonable steps necessary to address complaints. If the issue is not handled at the workplace, a formal complaint can be submitted to WorkSafeBC

Human Rights Code

The Human Rights Code of British Columbia is intended to address all issues of discrimination that prevent full and free participation in economic, social, political, and cultural life in BC.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Charter recognizes primary fundamental freedoms, democratic rights, mobility rights, legal rights, and equality rights and recognizes the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

Civil Rights Protection Act

This Act addresses conduct and communication that promotes hatred or contempt or superiority/inferiority based on colour, race, religion, ethnic origin, or place of origin.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act

This Act recognizes diversity as a fundamental characteristic of society in which there are no impediments to full and free participation in the economic, social, cultural, and political life of British Columbia.

Criminal Code of Canada Consolidated Statutes and Regulations

This section of federal legislation defines criminal harassment, prohibited conduct, and punishment.

Additional Information

WorkSafeBC’s Toward a respectful workplace: A handbook on preventing and addressing workplace bullying and harassment is a thorough overview on this topic and provides examples of how to foster a respectful workplace.

Exercise – Test your knowledge

Key Takeaways

  • All workers are responsible for their own conduct and ensuring that they maintain a respectful workplace.
  • Employers are responsible for ensuring that they take all reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of their workers in a workplace that is free from bullying and harassment.

Content in this chapter is adapted from:

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Line B – Employability Skills Competency B-2: Describe Expectations and Responsibilities of Employers and Employees by Camosun College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.



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Pathways to Success Copyright © 2021 by BCIT Student Association is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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