We are often asked to determine whether systemic issues exist in workplaces, focussing on issues like sexual misconduct, harassment, racism, and alcohol and substance use. Unlike investigations, systemic reviews don’t examine isolated error or fault. Systemic reviews don’t uncover misconduct or wrongdoing of a particular person, or flag potential civil or criminal liability. Systemic reviews are different. Designed to identify issues involving an institution’s systems, policies, and practices, they can also scrutinize group behaviours, norms, and actions – in ways that an investigation or a court proceeding can’t.
In our workplace investigation training sessions, we often talk about “the four pillars” of the investigation process — fairness, thoroughness, timeliness, and confidentiality — as the foundation of a solid investigation. Here, I briefly explain how “cancel culture” can impact fairness, thoroughness, and confidentiality.
It can hardly be disputed that Black people celebrate just about everything, and we don’t just celebrate, we brand it – Black love, Black success, Black business, Black education, Black fatherhood, Black motherhood, Black girl magic, Black television, Black music, Black literature, Black everything. As you read this, you may be thinking, “Okay, we get it.” If that is your reaction, then perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you do not understand why we celebrate as we do.
Growing up in a predominantly white town, I was the only Black girl in my school. To add to that, my family and I were the only Black family in the town. To be completely frank with you, I barely saw any Black people other than myself and my family. I recall Black History Month never really being celebrated or even acknowledged in the schools I attended, and I did not see it in our history books. Lucky for me, I was exposed to the richness of Black culture and history at such a young age through books, television, and movies.
Call it a job perk? As a workplace investigator, I not infrequently get questions from friends, family, people I’ve just met, about whether Situation XYZ may be an example of discrimination and/or harassment. A recent discussion about digital blackface led me to think of other possible examples of how anti-Black stereotypes and microaggressions can manifest in the modern workplace.
In Ontario, where I work, we have just entered stage 2 of re-opening the economy, which includes allowing people to return to workplaces that have thus far been closed. Even if a business was deemed essential, and employees continued to work remotely, now that things are “thawing” we anticipate that more employees will return to the physical workplace.
We are living in a time when racism and racial discrimination are at the fore globally. The world is being awakened to an issue that is by no means new but has not necessarily received sufficient attention. There is now a global call for radical institutional and systemic changes which acknowledge the equality of racialized persons. While the focus is in many cases on the justice system, it is imperative that the systemic changes, if they are to be effective, must permeate to the core of every society at all levels, including the workplace.
I was actually going to write this blog last fall but it seems even more timely now. I have done a number of investigations in the past year where some of the allegations and evidence concerned conversations on various instant messaging platforms: Slack, Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp. While I seem to have developed a sub-specialty with investigations in the Tech sector, I confess that the first time a party spoke to me of Slack, I was somewhat clueless.