University has zero tolerance for bullying and harassment

Conducting research involves exposing one’s work to criticism, but it is harmful and detrimental to society if researchers and specialists do not dare to participate in public debate for fear of attracting negative and inappropriate attention. Public harassment, and how to deal with it was discussed in the University Oulu on December 9th. The conversation focused especially on social media harassment.

The discussion included University Lecturer Jarkko Toikkanen, Postdoctoral Researcher Suvi Pihkala, HR Services Manager Tanja Mikkonen and Communications Specialist Janne Hakkarainen from the University of Oulu and researcher Karin Creutz from the University of Helsinki.

Tieteentekijät (Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers) has instructions on how to deal with harassment. Also University of Oulu´s instructions (on intranet Patio) are soon to be supplemented. Jarkko Toikkanen highlighted from the Tieteentekijät instructions, for example, the importance to take immediate action and to tell the bully to stop, as well as the importance to contact the supervisor and other parties if needed, and documenting of inappropriate messages.

Job-related harassing feedback is not a private matter, and as your employer, the University of Oulu offers you support for solving the problem, Tanja Mikkonen and Janne Hakkarainen said. If you are facing harassment, talk to your supervisor first. Also Occupational Health Care and Occupational Safety Services are at your use, as well as University Communications. In an extreme situation, you can also contact the police. “Support from colleagues in the case of harassment is also important”, Jarkko Toikkanen said.

General discussion and openness about harassment faced by researchers was widely seen as an important part of anti-harassment work. “It is also important to tell about the harassment, so that you can process it yourself”, Suvi Pihkala said.

Karin Creutz advises those facing harassment to deal with their own feelings. “When you are aware of your feelings, such as fear, anger, frustration or shame, it is easier it is easier to put things in proportion. On the other hand, it may be a good idea to keep certain distance to the topic, to put it aside and look it from far.”

What is perceived as harassment can also be personal issue. However, there is no threshold too low to address harassment. “If an employee feels that harassment endangers his/her health, it is the employer's duty to intervene”, Tanja Mikkonen said.

Last updated: 10.12.2021