Most Americans consider their workplaces to be safe zones–we don’t usually face our work days with trepidation and fear that harassment is going to be part of our day. Because of these higher expectations for our workplace environments, adults expect to be a part of harassment awareness education at some point; it has become a standard part of workplace training and best practice.
Even with this proactive training happening across the country, however, 59 percent of Americans have had some type of on the job harassment, or have at least witnessed the uncomfortable and disrespectful treatment of others. In cases such as these, it is becoming necessary for all employees to be aware of signs of harassment and to be able to take preventative measures against such behavior in the workplace. Here are some things that you can do in your own environment to prevent workplace harassment from occurring:
Clear Standards And Written Policies
When clear-cut standards are in place, and employees have access to this information about what is acceptable and what is considered unacceptable behavior, they are less likely to engage in behaviors that may be considered “on the line”. In addition, having consequences specified for undesirable behaviors will ensure that employees who want to keep their positions will remain within the boundaries of acceptable and respectful behavior.
Include Professional Legal Counsel
Backing up your workplace harassment policies with legal counsel will make them legitimate in the eyes of the most resistant employee. Knowing that the policies have been reviewed by professional counsel will deter people from engaging in arguments about what is fair, what is justified, and what can be enforced. Call in your law professionals to back you up with difficult cases, and leave the difficult representation in their capable hands. There aren’t many employees who will welcome the chance to engage in legal fisticuffs with trained professionals.
Provide Training And Support
Speak to your human resources department to develop and implement training that reaches all of your employees. Training should be non-exclusive; it should be available to all employees regardless of status or position. Upon completion, make additional copies of your anti-harassment policy available to employees for them to be able to refer to if they have questions. The training should also contain the protocol for reporting incidents, maintaining confidentiality, etc. All of these are important elements of a workplace safety policy that operates in integrity.
Act Immediately; Address Infractions Objectively
Just as clear-cut expectations for behavior should be communicated, so should consequences for undesirable behavior. Being consistent when dealing with cases and having a protocol for reporting and accountability will help all employees feel safe, heard, and respected, even through tough situations like these. The health of a workplace depends on your ability to handle conflicts and uncomfortable situations consistently and fairly.
Regularly Review Your Policies; Stay Current
Twenty years ago, there was no social media harassment going on, for most of the social media handles we use now did not exist. Now, however, there are cases of harassment going on via social media that destroy lives, so attention needs to be given to this form of activity. Knowing what your policies say, evaluating whether they are current, and being able to make changes to reflect trends will be key in proactively managing the health of your workplace. Have regular assessment sessions where you gather key people around you and ask for input on what they think needs to be changed. After all, you all must live by these policies as you work together day after day, why not give your coworkers a say in how these policies are developed. Stay current with the times, and pay attention to the cues your employees are giving you.
Workplace harassment is uncomfortable, intimidating, and downright scary at times. Your employees will feel better, relate better, and even work better knowing that you have taken proactive measures to reduce harassing behavior in the workplace. Take any incidents that do occur seriously, and know that with consistency, you will be able to create the type of work environment where your employees feel heard, respected, and valued. That is a community that anyone would want to be a part of.