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Expected conduct

Biosciences is a friendly and supportive department, where academics, researchers, professional and technical services staff and students consider their own behaviour and communications, and the impact that these can have on others.

We strive to be open, just, caring and celebrative in our interactions with each other. We recognise that personalities, characters, opinions and management styles may differ, but everyone is expected to work co-operatively with others in order to maintain our scholarly community.

Communication – whether verbal, through email or using online platforms – should be respectful and kind. We do not wish to dissuade people from engaging in constructive advice or criticism, where justified. However, notwithstanding the stresses of the roles we have or the desire to improve sub-optimal processes, our interactions need to consider other people’s perspectives and feelings.

Unacceptable and inappropriate behaviour, harassment and bullying

Unacceptable communications and behaviour can take many forms such as face-to-face, written, telephone, e-mail, or through social media. Many instances of negative interactions between individuals, or groups, can be traced back to frustrations with University systems, incomplete understanding of situations, cultural differences and high stress levels.

The key point about harassment is that it is not about whether there was intent to cause offence, it is about the perception of the person experiencing it (how it makes them feel).

Preventing unacceptable or inappropriate behaviour

To prevent these instances, we expect individuals to reflect on the potential impact of their written communications prior to dissemination (“how would I feel if this was sent to me?”).

If you regret a comment made in frustration, perhaps after reading back an email, do not underestimate the power of an immediate apology.

Where communications are perceived as having been harsh, intimidating, hostile, offensive or disrespectful, we aim to empower recipients to respond in a careful and measured way to the initiator, either directly, or through a third party, to make them aware of the negative impact the communications have had.

We recognise the perceived power imbalances that make feedback to some people difficult – therefore individuals are encouraged to talk to the Head of Department or the Chair of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee or to one of the University’s Dignity and Respect Advisors if they feel they have been the recipient of unacceptable behaviour.

Expected action on unacceptable or inappropriate behaviour

The Department adheres to the University principles of “Call it, Discuss it, Report it”.

Step 1: Call it

If you feel able, the first time someone falls short of expected behaviour, you could speak up about the incident at the time. Or you may feel more comfortable taking the person aside on their own or writing to them afterwards.

  • Relate the behaviour to an expected standard of behaviour
  • Explain the impact it had on you
  • Encourage the person to think about the consequence of the behaviour on others
  • Be direct and name the inappropriate behaviour
  • Be sensitive to the possibility that the person was completely unaware their behaviour was inappropriate
  • If you ever get called out for inappropriate behaviour yourself, recognise that it has been a difficult thing for the other person to do.

Step 2: Discuss it

If you do not feel able to call the behaviour out, if the behaviour has affected you very significantly, or if an individual behaves inappropriately after being previously made aware of their inappropriate behaviour, we encourage you to discuss what you have experienced. This discussion can be with:

Step 3: Report it

While we always encourage you to try and resolve any issues initially by talking about them, you may need or want to report inappropriate behaviour.

Ways to report:

  • Speak to one of the Dignity and Respect Advisors, who are trained to support you and, significantly, can be chosen from outside the department.
  • Report anonymously online. This can help to identify issues at a senior level, but by its nature cannot result in follow up support.
  • Report informally online. This will result in the central Equality, Diversity & Inclusion team following up with what to do next.
  • The last option is a formal report, which goes direct to HR and will trigger the University’s Grievance Procedure. It is every staff member and student’s right to access formal reporting of inappropriate behaviour, but we would urge members of the department to seek advice on this from the Dignity and Respect advisors, Head of Biosciences or your Line Manager to discuss how to take forwards a formal complaint. (See 'Step 2: Discuss it' for more information.)

It is important to highlight that if you make an informal report or speak to a Dignity and Respect Advisor they may suggest making a formal report, but their support can be very positive.

It is also important to emphasise that discussions and reporting of inappropriate behaviour can and do have consequences. Informal discussions have led to local action, but confidentially restricts reporting on specific cases. Reports made to the university, even the anonymous reports, are summarised annually at the highest level to identify common issues. Formal reports trigger investigation by HR as part of the Grievance Procedure. We want to know about all incidents, as it is the only way to improve the situation.