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

  • Is it safe or appropriate to step in right away?
  • Is it safe or appropriate to step in alone?
  • Should you act immediately or afterwards?
  • What would be the impact on yourself and those around you?
  • How serious is the situation?
  • How can you avoid seeming like a treat?

Consider your options

  • Speak to the people involved.
  • Offer support to those impacted.
  • Mention the issue in a neutral setting.
  • Access resources and information.
  • Take notes.
  • Speak with someone who can help.
    • A leader
    • 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. Let’s take a breather.
  • 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 or risk your job

Think that others will see you as a troublemaker

Wonder if confidentiality will be maintained

Have doubts that your concern will be taken seriously

Feel more risk if you face discrimination or inequity

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:

  • who report violations or suspected violations of our Code honestly and in good faith
  • those who co-operate in Code-related investigations
  • those who raise questions about our Code, a business practice, decision or action
  • those who 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 suspected instances of fraud or other 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 through the Whistle-Blower Program.

The program supports anonymous reporting of concerns, where it is appropriate.  In some situations, remaining anonymous may limit the ability of the Whistle-Blower Program to effectively investigate your concern.  Reporting online through an independent service provider allows for ongoing dialogue with investigators, with you remaining anonymous if you choose.

Every reasonable effort is made to maintain the confidentiality of all information and individuals related to a reported allegation.  Details may be disclosed only on a need-to-know basis as necessary to address the reported issue.

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


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