It’s a new year, and with that comes change. If you work in a space that tolerates sexual harassment, it’s time to let your voice be heard. I know too many people that put up with this kind of behavior in the office and it’s just not acceptable. So instead of going on what would normally be a rant about those experiences, the people involved, and how this should be handles, I’m going to take a more professional approach and write about how to avoid this type of harassment at work.
Business is a place for debate and opinions, but we’re almost certain that everybody would agree with the fact that sexual harassment in the workplace is never a good thing. It can destroy the confidence and lives of the victims, it can harm the reputation of the business, and it can cause lots of disruption. Keeping sexual harassment out of the workplace and creating a work space that is hassle free should be an aim for all managers and business owners, and we’re here to provide help on how to achieve this!
Set Clear Guidelines
Before anything else, the company needs to adopt clear principles on sexual harassment. Not only should the employee handbook explain that sexual harassment isn’t tolerated, it should lay out consequences and even the definition of harassment to prevent any confusion.
Additionally, businesses need to address the idea of retaliation. Sadly, some employees in the past have complained about sexual harassment only to then receive further abuse.
Develop an Appropriate Complaints System
Over the years, one of the biggest problems with sexual harassment has been the fact that workers have been reluctant to report cases. With clear guidelines set, the next step is to develop a proper complaints process so that all workers know that they can talk and that you will listen. Sometimes, the victim needs to know that their complaint will be kept anonymous for as long as possible, so this is something else to consider.
Lead by Example
Although this sounds obvious, everybody at the top needs to lead by example. If a manager breaches the guidelines every single day, everybody else in the workplace will assume that this sort of behavior is acceptable. Since the business doesn’t tolerate sexual harassment, this needs to apply at all levels.
With matters as delicate as this, education is often just as important as laying down guidelines and preventing it from happening. Especially with older generations where perhaps they grew up at a time where society was very different, yearly training can once again confirm what is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace. With a good training program, your employees will learn:
- What qualifies as sexual harassment
- The importance of a workplace free from sexual harassment
- The complaints procedure
- The importance of people using the complaints procedure when necessary
In addition to training employees who work on the ground level, I also recommend training all managers and supervisors. When people in this role haven’t really dealt with sexual harassment, they might make a simple mistake. Even by passing the information on to the wrong person, they can cause problems for the business and the individuals involved. With training, all managers and supervisors will know exactly how to deal with complaints, who needs the information, and what happens at every single step of the process.
Set a Precedent
So far, this would be considered an amazing start, but your work’s not done. You have clear guidelines, a complaints system, the managers lead by example, and everybody receives the right training. At this stage, there’s only one thing that could bring it all down; not following the complaints procedure or sticking to your word. Just because one person is especially important to the business, they shouldn’t get special dispensation. The second that this happens, nobody will ever complain of sexual harassment again because they know there’s a lack of consequence. Also, you will lose your best staff because they won’t want to work in an environment where sexual harassment is accepted.
If you follow my advice, and then set a precedent when somebody goes against the guidelines, this will give you the best chance of keeping the workplace free from sexual harassment…just as it should be!