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Tips for Understanding and Addressing Harassment in the Workplace

This isn’t a post we wanted to write, but in light of recent events, it feels wrong not to touch on this very important issue on our work platform. There’s no point in focusing on the disturbing reality of what’s recently been exposed, since such behaviour is rooted in history and gender relations, but what we should be focusing on taking action to change the status quo.

This isn’t a post we wanted to write, but in light of recent events, it feels wrong not to touch on this very important issue on our work platform. There’s no point in focusing on the disturbing reality of what’s recently been exposed, since such behaviour is rooted in history and gender relations, but what we should be focusing on taking action to change the status quo. According to Economist Kathy Frankovic, 60% of women and 15% of men have reported being sexually harassed in the workplace, which sheds light on just how deep the issue goes.  

In this post, we’ll be defining and exploring the ins and outs of harassment (sexual or otherwise) in the workplace in terms of policies and procedures every company should take for prevention or bringing cases to an appropriate resolution. 


Quid quo pro vs. Hostile Environment

Harassment in the workplace can broadly be categorised into two types: 

Quid quo pro: sexual favours in exchange for something (i.e. promotion, raise, favourtism, etc.) 

Hostile environment: causing someone to feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or fearful of work due to unwanted jokes, gestures, touching, comments, emails, music, etc. 

Understanding that there are countless permutations for the manifestations of harassment on the part of the employer will allow them to be more able in identifying when such instances occur. 

 

It can happen to anyone

Another way employers should approach the issue is to understand that, in addition to the many ways harassment can take place, it can also happen to anyone - whether we're referring to the perpetrator or victim. No one should be silenced or disregarded for not fitting the generic role of a harassment victim. Being vigilant about protecting all employees and taking everyone seriously is key to a positive work environment. 

 

Have a polished policy

Adopting and implementing a defined sexual harassment policy in the staff handbook is crucial to making sure the entire company is on the same page. This includes: defining what harassment is, the disciplinary measures and investigative processes that will be taken for complaints, termination from the company for wrongdoers, and warnings against any form of retaliation against complaints (regardless of the outcome of the investigation).

 

Train management staff

In addition to talking through the previous policy to all employees, it’s also important to conduct training sessions for management staff on a regular basis for when they must deal with complaints. Sexual harassment, like any other workplace crisis, must be addressed in a swift and professional manner in order to prevent the situation from escalating, which makes conflict resolution a key skill for them to have. 

 

Create the right culture

When it comes to implementing a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, its success often rides on whether this sentiment is evoked in the company’s culture. This means that warnings are given to those who often make inappropriate jokes or shares offensive material, all social events should remain professional, and having an easily-approachable communication channel the entire staff knows they can use to relay their feedback or make a complaint. 

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