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Justice in the Workplace – A Positive Way Forward

The #metoo movement and the provincial and federal government’s new bills addressing harassment and psychological health and safety has created a focus on these issues in the workplace.  So how do we address them successfully?

According to Wikipedia, restorative justice is an approach to justice that personalizes the crime by having the victims and the offenders mediate a restitution agreement to the satisfaction of each, as well as involving the community. Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender has shown the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.  This practice has been moving into the workplace to better manage the impact of harassment and bullying behaviours.

When people experience inappropriate behaviour at work, relationships are broken, and teams suffer.  Psychological health and safety are damaged. Restorative practice can be used within the workplace both to prevent this from happening in the first place and to address it when it does, enabling everyone involved to find a positive way forward.

Where situations have already arisen – for example in cases of disrespectful behaviour, emotional and verbal abuse, intimidation or bullying – restorative practice can be an effective way to resolve them. This is not a replacement for the rights-based approach of filing complaints and undergoing investigations.  It is another step to be taken to restore harmony for those involved. When the investigation is completed, and the complainant and respondent return to the workplace, a process is required to ensure psychological health and safety is restored for themselves and other team members impacted.

It is not a quick or easy fix and each situation must be assessed individually and addressed appropriately.  Fostering dialogue between complainants and respondents (and others impacted) will hopefully mirror the high rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability that appears when used within the justice system.

It involves:

  • bringing together all those affected by the situation (the community)
  • providing a safe environment for the expression of emotion
  • allowing participants to come to a shared understanding
  • identifying creative ways to deal with the situation
  • providing opportunities to rebuild damaged relationships and strengthen those involved

Restorative approaches can also be used proactively and in a preventative way within the workplace to build strong, positive relationships. An organization that fully embraces restorative practices has the potential to create a safer, happier and more effective workplace for everyone.

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