How to Create a Harassment-Free Work Environment
The workforce is a diverse place—encompassing many cultures and customs, meaning that your employees may have differing views on hairy topics like sexual harassment. Employees spend a great deal of time together, and friendships and bonds are forged, both in and outside the office. Some engagements are harmless, whereas others are… well, not so much.
April is sexual assault awareness month (SAAM), which makes this an important time to talk about an important conversation. As a leader, you want to make sure your organization is a comfortable environment for all parties involved.
Talking about sexual harassment can be awkward, but not handling it at all can make matters worse. That said, companies that don’t get ahead of the elephant in the room risk exposing their organization to legal action.
A clear and concise policy
Sexual harassment in the workplace is an extremely unfortunate occurrence, and leadership has to be swift and competent when it comes to matters of that nature. Create a comprehensive company policy that details acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Be sure that all employees receive a company handbook and that a digital copy is available on the company intranet. By clearly spelling out the rules of personal conduct, it leaves very little confusion for mistaking sexual harassment. Further, it demonstrates that the company takes these topics seriously.
Training courses around sexual harassment are a great addition to a company’s harassment policy guide. As we’ve mentioned, the workplace is comprised of people from different backgrounds, age groups, etc. Some behavior that was acceptable 30 years ago may not fly in today’s work setting. The reality is that some individuals might not even be aware that their behavior constitutes harassment.
Employers can provide resources in the form of virtual simulations and in-person company-wide harassment training. The more educated your employees are on identifying harassment behavior, the less likely they are to display those unwanted behaviors.
Open-door claim policy
While creating policies and conducting training are impactful to the organizations, instances of sexual harassment can still happen. When an employee experiences sexual harassment, it can be an emotionally trying time. Ensure that they are able to get in touch with their HR representative and that the HR team is ready and able to handle the matter as quickly and efficiently as possible. Any complaint should be anonymous, to protect against retaliation from the offender. In doing so, you’re empowering people to speak up while setting the precedent of a harassment-free workplace.
Keeping your people and organization safe
Drawing a hardline on sexual harassment in the workplace is key for the safety of your people and your business. If leaders drop the ball on handling a claim, they could be held responsible, resulting in fines that could be detrimental to the business. More importantly, it means they’re passively accepting unacceptable, harmful behavior. Taking a proactive opposition to sexual harassment is a key step in creating a safe and inclusive work culture.