Preventing offensive behaviour

How can you actively prevent offensive behaviour as an employee, colleague or manager? Find the tools on this page.

Offensive behaviour in the workplace can occur for many reasons. There is often a link between offensive conduct and workplace culture.

Work on preventing various forms of offensive behaviour is therefore largely based on developing a workplace culture with norms and values that actively counteract offensive behaviour, including bullying and sexual harassment.

This requires that the entire workplace – and especially the management – has clear and visible values and attitudes that are communicated in objectives, rules and practical action.

How do we best prevent offensive behaviour?

A healthy culture in which offensive behaviour does not occur is characterised by:

  • A common understanding that offensive behaviour is unacceptable.
  • A good psychological work environment with a sense of humour, room for a smile and mutual respect for one another.
  • A perception that preventing offensive behaviour is a shared task. Everyone has a responsibility to intervene in a situation of offensive behaviour – both the person being subjected to offensive behaviour and the person witnessing offensive behaviour.
  • Being aware of your own and others' boundaries and being open about them. There is an ongoing dialogue about the tone in the team/department, where you can talk openly about offensive behaviour and/or a bad tone.
  • Confidence in the community, i.e. the manager and colleagues, and confidence that you can object when others cross your boundaries, or if you witness offensive behaviour. You are not perceived as sensitive or delicate.
  • Disagreements being nipped in the bud, so that they do not result in offensive behaviour.


What can you do?


As a manager you are responsible for preventing, identifying and dealing with offensive behaviour in an active and clear way. Read the AUs guidelines for dealing with offensive behaviour.

  • Please note that managers and others in a mentor role or similar role have a special responsibility to always act professionally and objectively and in this way prevent offensive behaviour.
  • Communicate clearly that offensive behaviour is unacceptable and encourage everyone to say no to offensive behaviour.
  • Talk about the tone of communication and the culture you want in your unit on a regular basis. Involve the union representative, occupational health and safety representative and your HR partner, if relevant. You can talk about this topic e.g. at department meetings, committee meetings and in the SDDs. Find dialogue materials here.
  • In case of conflicts, assess whether the parties need support to help them move on. Offer support to resolve the conflict so that unresolved conflicts do not result in offensive behaviour.
  • Help to create a culture in which we say no to discrimination based on race, gender, age etc.
  • Be aware that behaviour might be clearly offensive, or it may not be so obvious, and that it can be expressed verbally, physically and digitally.


Take responsibility together for a culture in which:

  • You respect each other’s boundaries and it is OK to say no to offensive behaviour.
  • Constructive communication is maintained, also when we disagree.
  • We have an open dialogue about the way we communicate and collaborate.
  • We say no to discrimination based on race, gender, age etc.


Be aware

  • of your own and other people's boundaries.
  • that we have different boundaries and there must be room for everyone and for our differences.

Contact your manager, occupational health and safety representative or union representative if you need advice on how to deal with specific observations or incidents.

Read AU’s guidelines for dealing with offensive behaviour and norms for daily working life.

Tal om det der er svært! (video in Danish) Hør hvordan forsker, Mille Mortensen, Institut for Psykologi, KU mener at man bør arbejde med krænkende adfærd. Kilde: Branche Fælleskabet for Arbejdsmiljø
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Manager responsibility

Managers and employees at the university are jointly responsible for actively and clearly preventing, identifying and dealing with bullying, harassment, threats and discrimination (sections 26-28 of the Danish Working Environment Act).  

As a manager, in collaboration with staff, you also have a particular responsibility to promote well-being and ensure a healthy work/study environment.