Share with your friends

Addressing bullying and harassment in the workplace must be a business priority

Addressing bullying and harassment in the workplace

Organizations need to make workplace respect a priority or risk losing their people and damaging their reputations


Related content

Organizations that don't seriously address bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD) in their workplaces will struggle to attract and retain good employees and suffer from poor productivity, concluded a panel of leading voices on workplace issues speaking at the National Club in Toronto.

"Organizations need to tackle this uncomfortable topic, or risk falling behind," says Sheldon Kennedy, abuse survivor and co-founder of the Respect Group. "They need to ask the tough questions to determine if this type of behaviour is happening in their organization. They need to be prepared for what they might find and be committed to taking action to address and end it."

Kennedy joined a panel of leading voices at the National Club to talk about the cause, impact and solutions to workplace abuse and harassment. Joining him on the panel were Louise Bradley, President & CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada, Pamela Jeffery, President, The Pamela Jeffery Group and Soula Courlas, Partner, KPMG.

The panel noted that ignoring the issue not only affects employee retention but it hurts productivity and profitability. Experiencing BAHD in the workplace can trigger mental health problems and illnesses, which, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, are the leading cause of short‐ and long‐term disability in Canada. The economic burden has been estimated at $51‐billion per year, almost $20‐billion of which comes from workplace losses.

While pointing out the risks of not addressing the issue, the panelists noted that many organizations are taking real action to address the issue. "This isn't just about focusing on the bad individuals," says Kennedy. "Ninety-eight per cent of individuals want to be good. So focus on them and give them the tools to be better."

For those companies who don't know where to start they agreed that the most important step was instituting a culture of respect and zero tolerance for toxic behaviour in their organizations – a tone that needs to come straight from the CEO or the top of the organization.

"This will require a willingness from leadership to face the hard truths about what is happening inside their walls," says Courlas, who leads KPMG's People and Change Advisory business. "Bullying can be subtle. Education is key to helping people recognize it. Leadership has a duty to proactively work towards eradicating this type of behaviour, which will inevitably help unlock the best of their people."

The panel also focused on the impact of changing demographics in the workplace and the importance Millennials, who will soon comprise the largest age group in the workforce, place on culture and organizational values. "Millennials care deeply about an organization's values, and want to work with organizations who mirror their own," adds Courlas. "Employers will need to meet their Millennial employees' expectations or risk losing this valuable source of talent and future leaders. Millennials have also grown up in the age of social media and have seen its impact related to cyber-bullying and online harassment. It is completely unacceptable online and therefore the same expectation needs to be upheld in the workforce."

Kennedy adds that the Millennial generation doesn't attach the same stigma to being a victim of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination as previous generations. "They are far less prone to staying quiet if they witness such behaviour. Systems need to be in place to support them in raising these types of instances and they need to see them being dealt with effectively. If not, they will leave and tell everyone why."

For more information, please contact:

Ashley Lewis
Senior Manager, National Communications
KPMG in Canada
(416) 777-3787

About KPMG in Canada

KPMG LLP, an Audit, Tax and Advisory firm ( is a limited liability partnership, established under the laws of Ontario, and the Canadian member firm of KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"). KPMG has over 7,000 professionals/employees in 38 locations across Canada serving private and public sector clients. KPMG is consistently recognized as an employer of choice and one of the best places to work in the country.

The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International, a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity, and describes itself as such.

About Respect Group Inc.

Respect Group ( was incorporated on April 5th, 2004 by co-founders, Sheldon Kennedy and Wayne McNeil, to pursue their common passion: the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD). Respect Group is made up of a team of over 30 talented individuals whose passion is to create a global culture of Respect. As Canada's leading on-line provider of prevention education related to BAHD, Respect Group has certified over 1.2 Million Canadians involved in sport, schools and the workplace. Respect Group is a Certified B Corporation (

© 2020 KPMG LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved.

For more detail about the structure of the KPMG global organization please visit

Connect with us


Want to do business with KPMG?


loading image Request for proposal