For the past few years, cases of workplace harassment have gained interest among practitioners and researchers as it is becoming one of the most delicate areas of effective workplace governance. Under occupational health and safety laws around the globe, workplace harassment and bullying are identified as being core psychosocial hazards. Workplace harassment and bullying can impact an employee’s psychological safety and the overall mental health and safety of the workplace. Unaddressed aggressiveness or unresolved workplace conflicts have the potential to intensify to a juncture in the workplace.
Preventing Workplace Harassment from the Beginning
The organizational culture has a great influence on how co-workers interact with each other. Your role as a manager is to set up a healthy working environment in which harassment is unlikely to take place. Breeding a culture of respect is far broader than managing harassment complaints. Many activities do not meet the definition of harassment and yet have a harmful effect on the effectiveness and on an individual’s mental health.
It is your obligation to address right away workplace issues that are brought to your attention. All employee’s working under you should be treated with respect, equity, politeness, and dignity. Anyone working for you has the right to a harassment-free workplace. Conversely, other individuals dealing with your employees should not be the source of harassment. The continuous effort to demonstrate respect is everyone’s personal responsibility. Managers have the same responsibilities and rights as employees, plus even more specific responsibilities when it comes to creating and maintaining a productive, healthy and respectful working environment.
As a manager you are encouraged to apply the following good practices:
- Communicate with your staff about the organizational and human values you want to encourage in the workplace and express that workplace harassment can severely sabotage these values.
- Find out what training is accessible within your company, within the government sector or from private providers on workplace harassment prevention, anger management, self-awareness, cooperative problem solving, workplace conflict resolution etc.
- Implement and support training and awareness sessions in your organization.
- Make it mandatory for your employees to go to such sessions and participate in them yourself. Participation of company leaders in such exercises would send a message to the employees that they are serious about these anti-harassment policies.
- Explain what constitutes acceptable behavior in the workplace. As Tom Hanks quoted in Harvey Weinstein scandal “There should be a code of ethics posted in every lunchroom of every company on the planet, that says ‘here is the behavior that is expected of you as an employee of this company”.
- Clarify the consequences of sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Counsel individual employees when necessary or refer them to befitting services within your organization where expertise in harassment prevention and resolution is accessible.
- Ensure employees that regardless of the root of harassment, it is not acceptable and encourage them to come forward if it happens.
- Employees often fear persecution for voicing their concerns. Implement Your Safe Hub in your organization, a special communication channel that protects such employees with the power of anonymity.
Be a Role Model
- Be an example by spreading awareness and legitimacy, and by behaving ethically and responsibly at all times.
- Provide everybody in the workplace with esteem and equity.
- Use your authority fairly and promote involvement in decision making.
- Use of informal conflict resolution exercises and effective communication.
Keep watch and be up-to-date about the happenings in your workplace
- Take note of and study how your staff interacts.
- Watch out for offensive humor or disparaging jokes, even if they seem to be friendly teasing.
- Communicate with your employee’s about their problems and any issues they might be facing.
- Ascertain if there’s any truth to rumors of unethical behavior.
- Check into enhanced absenteeism and turnovers.
Interact candidly and with all respect
- Let your staff be aware that you are open to hearing downright honest opinions and constructive criticism.
- Inquire your staff for ideas on how to increase morale, office interaction and productivity.
- Be aware that your staff may have problems with management style, so be wide-open, not protective.
Encourage organizational communication and grievance reporting
- Encourage your employees to interact with each other and resolve problems with teamwork as they arise.
- Provide aid in easing upcoming communications and encourage employees to consult a resource person when preparing for a ‘sensitive conversation’.
- Employees often fear persecution for voicing their concerns. Implement Your Safe Hub in your organization. It's a secure communication channel that protects such employees with the power of anonymity.