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Who Is Liable for Manager Misbehaviour?

psychological safety Mar 24, 2023
who is liable for manager misbehaviour?


Our organizations work hard to recruit the best talent possible. We need leaders and managers that are high performers and driven. But what if that high performing manager does not have the skills to manage employees? Too many managers find themselves in the leadership role because they were good at their technical job. We sometimes forget that it takes different skills to manage employees. It is crucial to provide your leaders with the tools to successfully coach and support employees. Otherwise, your workplace may become an unsafe place to be – and worse, it may be your managers who are engaging in misconduct.

In a study reported by Statistics Canada in 2018, 19% of women and 13% of men reported that they had experienced harassment in their workplace in the past year1. Of this percentage, supervisors or managers were responsible for 39% of workplace harassment for men and 32% for women1. Workplace harassment includes verbal abuse, humiliating behaviour, threats to persons, physical violence, and unwanted sexual attention or sexual harassment.

When a manager engages in bullying and harassment, this not only impacts employee success and overall company culture, but it can have significant financial consequences for the employer too.


Recent Lawsuit for Manager Harassment Claim

In the recent Ontario Superior Court decision of Osmani vs. Universal Structural Restorations Ltd., the employer was liable for almost $300,000 when an employee was grossly mistreated by his supervisor2. Among the claims were reports of racial slurs, threat of deportation, interference with WSIB claims, battery, assault, and moral damages. Shockingly, it was reported that the supervisor hit the employee in the testicles in front of all his co-workers so hard that the testicle later had to be removed. To make matters worse, when the employee complained of marital problems as a result, the supervisor advised: “I can help, bring by your wife.”

The employee sued both the supervisor and his employer. He claimed that the employer was vicariously liable for the supervisor’s actions, and the judge agreed, awarding him an unprecedented amount. The supervisor was responsible for only $25,000, but if he proves unable to pay that amount, it can be collected from the employer as well.


Impacts of an Unsafe Workplace Leader

New federal regulations under the Canada Labour Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act across Canada regulate the enforcement of control over violence and harassment in the workplace. It is your legal responsibility to make sure that you have a violence free workplace. Now the harassment may not be as blatant as in the lawsuit above, but even the subtle approaches to managing employees with harassment, microaggressions, and bias can lead to a workplace that is not safe for employees.

Legal and financial implications are not the only consequences of manager misconduct. An unsafe workplace can also impact the following1:

  • Productivity – individuals that feel unsafe have less productivity and will not perform to their full potential. Statistics Canada’s survey showed that 24% of employees who experienced workplace harassment had a lower level of motivation to perform their job compared to 9% of employees who did not experience workplace harassment.
  • Corporate culture – a culture that supports harassment and lack of safety will be one destined to fail. Evidence suggests that being harassed in the workplace by a supervisor or another person in a position of power can potentially have more harmful consequences for victims than being harassed by someone without the power imbalance. Survey participants who had been harassed by a person in power were significantly more likely to be unsatisfied with their jobs, have a weak sense of belonging at the organization, and have plans to leave their job compared to those who had been harassed not by a person in power.
  • Overall wellbeing of team members – there is a link between workplace harassment and personal well-being indicators such as stress, mental health, and outlook on life.


Success Coaching Works

Leadership skills do make a difference in your corporate culture. You can state that you have a workplace that is free from harassment, but without the tools for leaders to be the role model or manage the workplace issues, your corporate culture will not be actioned.

Emotional intelligence, compassion, and empathy can be learned with Success Coaching. Inclusive leadership tools can be created and used to ensure a workplace support system that allows employees to come to work and focus on productivity and healthy working relationships.

Gowan Consulting’s experienced trainers and coaches work with leaders to assess their current level of psychological safe leadership skills. The leader is asked to complete some basic training regarding the behaviours and skills needed to be a successful leader. Once the training is started, the coach delivers an individual program to support integration of leadership skills. Our coaches help your leaders work through practical scenarios, complex concerns, and difficult conversations. Skills that leaders will build include emotional intelligence, inclusive practices, communication and conflict resolution, and problem solving and innovation support.


Steps to Support Psychologically Safe Workplaces and Leaders

  1.  Have policies on violence and harassment, code of conduct, right to disconnect, and IT usage in the workplace.
  2.  Provide all leaders with baseline skills development to lead your teams.
  3.  Build psychological safety goals into leadership key performance indicators.
  4.  Assess skills and behaviours regularly and provide individual coaching to improve leadership team capabilities.
  5.  Ensure a smooth complaints process to identify those that are violating violence and harassment policies in the workplace.
  6.  Investigate complaints quickly and ensure that the results are shared with the complainant. Ensure that a plan is clearly delivered on how to address the concerns.
  7.  Address the concerns with the leader with direct feedback and communication on ways to address any issues.
  8.  Eliminate leaders from your team that do not demonstrate the ability to become a successful leader – high performance does not equal workplace culture of success.


How Can Gowan Consulting Help?



[1] Moyser, M., & Hango, D. (2018, December 17). Harassment in Canadian Workplaces. Statistics Canada. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from

[2] Levitt, H., & Tiwari, P. (2023, January 31). Man who lost testicle from getting hit by supervisor awarded more than $295,000. Lexology. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from