Businesses are faced with an epic challenge – making the workplace comfortable and safe for all, but how? What is the definition of a hostile work environment? It is a difficult concept to define because it is subjective. What feels like harassment to one person may seem harmless to the next.
Legally, the harassment must be severe enough to change the conditions of the victim’s employment, according to FindLaw, either by making them want to quit or by requiring certain behavior to stay employed.
It boils down to getting everyone on the same page when it comes to behavior, so there are clear boundaries and training modules based on them. Consider some concepts you need to address when looking to educate staff about workplace harassment.
How to Avoid Workplace Harassment?
Approach workplace harassment the same way you do any safety and security issue – by establishing written policies to address it. Use various scenarios to outline bad behavior and reinforce the company’s written policy statements while laying down information to help to avoid these issues like:
- Objecting to harassment immediately
- Understanding that saying no is the appropriate response to unwelcome advances. Ignoring that response is considered harassment.
- Being aware and accountable for your own behavior.
- Avoiding jokes or words that are discriminatory.
- Understanding the value of diversity.
Harassment avoidance is as much about what you see as it is what you do. Bystanders should understand how to support colleagues that are victims of harassment, as well.
How to Prevent Workplace Harassment
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission calls prevention the best tool to eliminate harassment problems. As part of compliance training, ask each employee should sign a statement saying they are accountable for their behavior at work and they understand the companies no tolerance rules.
Set up a clear path employees can use to report bad behavior, as well. This will encourage them to ask for assistance if necessary. If a violation does occur, management should act immediately as a deterrent to further incidences and retaliation.
How Should Businesses Address Workplace Harassment
Employers have a legal obligation to investigate complaints of harassment, but do you start? Assign someone on staff to take charge of complaints then invest in some professional workplace security and management training for this person.
Part of the process will include developing clear protocols for these investigations:
- Who should they talk to
- What questions are okay to ask
- How to reassure the complainant and protect them from retaliatory harassment
- How to address the person accused of the behavior
- How to corroborate complaints and spot contradictions
The investigation strategy should cover documentation, as well. What needs to be put in writing and how is that documentation kept private? Documenting both the complaint and investigation are critical in case there is further legal action taken by either party.
Once the investigation is complete, the company should lay out a plan for acting on that information such as who will make the final decision on what to do about the complaint.
How to Deal with the Aftermath of a Harassment Complaint
The investigation is complete and action is taken, so what now? It is important for the company to respect the privacy of both people involved in the incident. Secure the documentation and advise all parties involved not to discuss what happened. Review your harassment training program to ensure the scenario is covered and that you have a written policy in place that applies to it.
Consider hiring professionals like Global Learning Systems to create to customize harassment training modules that cover all the bases. Give them a call to find out more about diverse learning tools and to see a demo of their training platform.