How to Prevent Workplace Harassment in Your Organization

Nov 15, 2017
| David Pearson
How to prevent workplace harassment

Over the last month or so, multiple industries have had extremely serious accusations and confirmed instances of sexual harassment. These revelations have completely re-directed organizational protocols and brought the serious nature of harassment into the national spotlight.

Workplace harassment is one of the biggest issues that can plague companies of all sizes. Since these scandals took place, many businesses are being proactive in addressing how seriously they take harassment in the workplace. However, it is critical for all employers to do the same.

Now is the time for small business leaders to take a closer look at their workplace harassment policies and procedures and make any updates necessary to make their company a safer place to work. Following these six steps can help small employers prevent workplace harassment from occurring in their business.
 

1) Create and Set Clear Harassment Policies

The first step to preventing harassment from occurring in the workplace is to craft clear policies and standards. The policy should start with a precise statement about how the company is committed to a zero-tolerance policy for workplace harassment. Your policy should also let employees know that those who report instances of harassment won’t have their employment adversely affected.

Clear policies also state what behaviors and actions could constitute harassment, as well as how to report any instances that do occur. It is also important to outline disciplinary actions in the event that someone is proven to have harassed a co-worker. Also, don’t forget to check with compliance experts to ensure that your harassment policy complies with all federal, state, and local laws.
 

2) Communicate the Policy to Employees

Once you have crafted a new harassment policy or updated an existing one, it is critical for employers to communicate with their employees about the policy. This goes beyond a simple email. Employers should ensure that their harassment policy is included in employee handbooks, is distributed to all employees (if applicable) and that employees know that they can find it there. In addition, including the workplace harassment policy in other easy-to-access areas, such as a company intranet, ensures that employees can find the policy if needed.

It is also important for small businesses to explain the policy thoroughly during the onboarding of a new employee. This can be done in the form of meetings, seminars, training (which we will get to shortly), or other ways that clearly explain the policy to new hires.

Lastly, make sure that employees are alerted of any policy or procedural changes and updates. This ensures that employees are aware of new additions to your workplace standards.
 

3) Training and Education Are Necessary

Communicating your workplace harassment policies to employees is important, but that’s not all that has to be done. Training and education throughout the organization are a must, especially when any policy changes or updates happen.

These training sessions can cover various aspects of workplace harassment – from what constitutes harassment to how to report an incident. What’s important to keep in mind with training is that a one size fits all approach generally isn't the best method. Every workplace is different, as is the culture of the organization. Leadership should ensure that training and education are tailored to the organization. This will help increase awareness throughout the company.

It is also extremely important that everyone in the organization from the top down attends workplace harassment training. This ensures that everyone knows how to identify, report, and respond to instances of harassment in the organization. In addition, re-training periodically is a must, so make sure that training and educational sessions are set-up throughout the year.
 

4) Stress How Important it is to Report

One of the biggest issues surrounding workplace harassment is when employees decide not to report an instance that occurs. This can happen for a variety of reasons, which is why it is so critical for employers to stress to their employees that reporting workplace harassment is important.

A big part of this is to make it well know how to report a harassment issue. The process should be clearly stated in your company harassment policy, as well as who to notify with an issue. In addition, the procedure for investigating should be included in the policy as well (more on that shortly).

Also, be sure to offer multiple avenues to employees to report a harassment issue. There should be more than one person an employee can go to in the event of a workplace harassment complaint. Who to go to should be stated in the company harassment policy. When employees see how seriously their company takes workplace harassment, it makes for a safer, happier, and more productive environment.
 

5) Take Complaints Seriously and Respond Quickly

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of workplace harassment prevention is how leadership and the organization address complaints. Even the best harassment policy can be undone if the organization doesn’t address reports in a timely manner. That’s why it’s important for small businesses (and larger companies, too) to take workplace harassment complaints seriously and respond to them as quickly as possible.

Doing so let’s employees know that their employer won’t tolerate any form of workplace harassment, which will help in preventing future incidents from occurring. It also sets a precedent that the organization views workplace harassment as a serious offense, and has zero-tolerance for that type of behavior. This is critical in preventing workplace harassment violations.
 

6) Set a Clear Procedure for Investigating Claims

A large part of a robust workplace harassment policy is establishing a procedure to investigate any complaints that occur. Not only does it let employees know what to expect and what the process is, but it also helps employers address complaints as quickly as possible.

The procedure should be included in the workplace harassment policy to ensure that everyone is treated fairly during an investigation. Having a procedure in place helps guarantee that each investigation follows the same steps and moves forward in a timely manner. Having a procedure in place allows the company and business leaders to know exactly what to do and how to proceed when a workplace harassment issue is reported.
 

Employers Must Take Workplace Harassment Seriously in Order to Prevent It

Employees want and deserve a safe and healthy working environment each day they are in the office. By addressing workplace harassment and making it a priority to prevent it, employers set themselves and their employees up for a better and more engaged company culture. Workplace harassment is an issue that all employers, regardless of size, need to take seriously and do all that can be done to prevent.

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