5 Tips on How to Respond to Workplace Harassment
The desire to provide a harassment-free work environment for employees is nothing new. The issue, however, has been recently fueled by widespread media coverage of high-profile perpetrators and the emergence of the #MeToo movement in response to these allegations.
It’s not only big companies, like McDonald’s and Vice Media, that need to be concerned about the potential for workplace harassment within their organizations; companies of any size must ensure that they provide a work environment free from harassment. The New York Times offers 71 examples of men who have been accused of sexual harassment and whose reputations have taken a hit following the widely reported Harvey Weinstein incidents of harassment. Of course, workplace harassment is not limited to male perpetrators. Rather it can be perpetrated by, and impact, anyone.
Here are some important best practices you can, and should, follow for sending a strong message that harassment won’t be tolerated and that employees are entitled to safe and supportive workplace culture.
Take a Look at 5 Tips on How to Respond to Workplace Harassment:
1. Have Multiple Channels for Reporting Workplace Harassment
The first tip is a foundational one: have multiple means for employees to be able to file a claim of workplace harassment. Simply suggesting that employees report incidents of workplace harassment to their managers, or the HR department, is unlikely to increase incident reports—especially if these members are the source of harassment. Instead, companies should consider a broader message, like “Contact HR or any member of the leadership team,” and also provide a hotline or anonymous place to share concerns and incidents of harassment at work.
2. Respond Appropriately to Harassment at Work
Whatever the options for reporting harassment at work, companies should ensure that any harassment allegations are responded to promptly. Have processes and policies in place to ensure that HR, supervisors, and managers throughout the corporate ladder are well versed in what’s expected of them when workplace harassment complaints arise. This communication should occur frequently to ensure that everyone knows what to do when they receive a complaint of workplace harassment.
3. Investigate Workplace Harassment
An investigation is a crucial follow-up step to any claim of workplace harassment. Have a thorough and well-documented investigation process in place that clearly indicates who will do the investigation, who will be interviewed, and what evidence will be collected.
4. Take Prompt and Appropriate Action
Your workplace harassment policy should include information on how you will respond to and take action if a claim is made and is found to be reliable. Any failure to follow your company’s policy or procedure not only opens up your organization to legal risks, but it weakens your workplace environment and culture.
5. Use Incidents of Workplace Harassment to Open Communication
While workplace harassment claim details are private, incidents reinforce the need to publicly define the types of behaviors and actions that are considered to be workplace harassment, your policy surrounding workplace harassment, and avenues for employees to report any infraction.
How your organization responds to workplace harassment has an enormous impact on workplace culture. When employees know your commitment to support your policy and take swift steps to respond to any allegations of harassment, they will feel more empowered to come forward and less likely to engage in these activities.