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Speaking up

Speaking up

City employees work in all corners of Calgary and we rely on each other to report concerns or raise questions about practices and behaviours, so we can build and maintain a strong workplace culture. If something doesn’t seem right, safe or appropriate, you have options. Speaking up takes courage, but voicing your questions or concerns demonstrates your commitment to The City and to your colleagues.

Whether you are a bystander, or you are directly involved, it is important to do something. Not taking action sends the message that the behaviour is acceptable, that the people impacted are not important enough to warrant your help, and that you are willing to tolerate a workplace that is not safe, respectful, or ethical.

Before speaking up...

Assess the situation and consider your options. Weigh up what you know about the situation and decide whether it is safe or appropriate for you to act on your own. Then identify what steps you can take to address the concern, such as:

  • speaking to the people involved to share your perspective and concerns
  • offering support as a bystander to those directly involved
  • accessing resources and information such this website, or the Employee and Family Assistance Program
  • taking notes to help remember details if you need to talk about it later
  • speaking with someone who can help, such as a leader or HR Business Partner

Speaking up

If you’ve decided to speak with those involved, there are a number of ways you can start the conversation. We all naturally feel a little threatened or defensive when challenged about something we’ve done. Consider mentioning the issue in a neutral setting, when others aren’t around, or when things are calm.

Bystanders are individuals or groups who witness or hear about inappropriate workplace behaviour but aren’t directly involved. It can be difficult for bystanders to know what to do if they are unsure about the facts, unfamiliar with the people, or worried about making the situation worse. Bystander options include intervening, following-up with the people impacted, or both.

Below are some examples of what you can say to speak up, intervene or follow-up.

What you can say to speak up

  • Let’s pause and think this through.
  • I’m not comfortable with that.
  • Things seem pretty tense here; do we need to take some time?
  • Oh, hey, that’s not appropriate.
  • That crosses a line.
  • You’ve overstepped.

What you can say to intervene or follow-up

Examples of intervening:

  • Hey, my buddy is waiting for us. Let’s go now.
  • Is everyone okay here? How can I help?

Examples of following up:

  • I saw what happened. Let’s go and grab a coffee and talk.
  • Are you okay? What can I do to support you?

Common obstacles to speaking up

Speaking up can be challenging; human brains are wired to be cautious in potentially dangerous or uncomfortable situations. It can help to be aware of some of the obstacles that can prevent you from speaking up.

You may:

Feel embarrassed or uncertain

Assume someone else is responsible for taking action

Be afraid that you won't be taken seriously

Worry about relationships with coworkers

Assume the behaviour is acceptable

Anticipate retaliation

Think others will see you as a troublemaker

Fear that your job or promotion will be put at risk

Protecting those who raise concerns

As employees, it is important that we are able to ask questions and raise concerns about our Code of Conduct freely, and with an expectation that our concerns will be taken seriously and treated fairly.

We are committed to protecting the rights of employees who:

  • report breaches or suspected breaches of our Code honestly and in good faith
  • co-operate in Code-related investigations
  • raise questions about our Code, a business practice, decision or action
  • seek guidance on how to handle a particular situation

Retaliating against an individual under any of these circumstances, including harassing, intimidating, bullying or ostracizing them, is in itself a violation of our Code and may be subject to disciplinary action.

Reporting a false claim, for the purpose of causing harm to, intimidating or harassing another individual is also a violation of the Code and may be subject to disciplinary action.

The City wants to hear from you and wants you to feel safe speaking up.

The whistle-blower program

The whistle-blower program is an additional mechanism for employees, and Calgarians, to report instances of fraud, waste or wrongdoing by employees or others who conduct business with The City.

Employees are expected to report Code-related concerns to their leader or through the other avenues discussed earlier. However, if you are concerned about reprisal or bias and feel unable to report within these channels, the issue can be reported confidentially and/or anonymously through the whistle-blower program.

The program supports anonymous reporting of concerns, with an option for ongoing online communication through an independent service provider.

Visit calgary.ca/whistle for more information on the program.