Why did you volunteer to be a Harassment Advisor?
Strictly speaking, I didn’t! When a Harassment Advisor vacancy came up, I was asked whether I would consider the role. I like the opportunity to add a little variety to my work and several colleagues told me they thought that I would make a good Harassment Advisor so that persuaded me to do it.
How much time does it take up?
Very little. Meetings tend to last about an hour and, thankfully, I don’t get called upon very often. There are also training courses for Harassment Advisors, to make sure we are providing the right support.
James Brown is a Laboratory Manager, facilitating research within the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
What can you do as a harassment advisor, and what can’t you do?
Listen and advise. I’m often the first point of contact so my primary job is to understand the particular situation and provide support. The University has a detailed policy and my role is to advise in the context of this policy. We talk through the various options and try to recognise what would be a satisfactory outcome. I can help to plan a course of action and to advise on the content of any letters/emails to be written. I’m absolutely not allowed to act on someone’s behalf or attempt to ‘sort out’ the issues – it is an advisory role, not a mediation role.
If someone contacts you, does it start a formal process?
No, far from it. Many steps can be taken informally, and these can involve line managers, the Head of Department, Departmental Administrators and even mediation. In most cases, these informal processes lead to successful resolution.
How confidential is the process?
Any conversations I have are completely confidential. If I feel it might useful to divulge any information to a third party, I will only do this with the full consent of the complainant. I would only ever break confidentiality if I felt there was a serious, imminent risk of danger to anyone involved.
Is there any advice you would like to share with the department?
Be a considerate colleague and treat everyone with dignity and respect. We’re a very diverse group and that’s something to be celebrated. We should all do what we can to make our work environment a pleasant place for everyone. If you do experience harassment, don’t let it lie. Harassment Advisors are available to help, even if you just want to talk things through. As a bystander, if you witness unacceptable behaviour between colleagues please have the courage to challenge it, whether directly with those involved or by approaching a Harassment Advisor. Finally, colleagues should rest assured that action is taken at all levels to resolve harassment cases but, due to confidentiality, you’re unlikely to ever hear any details about it.
Would you recommend the role to others?
Yes. By their nature, these conversations aren’t exactly pleasant. People who come to me are often upset, angry and/or embarrassed. However, I do my best to listen and advise and I have been told that the discussions have been useful and helpful. It’s gratifying to hear that and it’s very rewarding to be able to help colleagues out in this way.