If your workplace experiences an incident of harassment, it’s pivotal that you first handle the incident properly. Then you can analyze why the incident occurred. Sometimes, workplace harassment occurs because an employee doesn’t understand boundaries or expectations. Other times, harassment festers because workplaces can unintentionally foster that behavior. Here are four steps organizations can take to ensure their culture isn’t breeding toxicity.
1. Establish harassment prevention measures
Unfortunately, even the best workplaces may face cases of harassment. While some incidents are one-offs, your company’s preventative measures speak volumes on your workplace culture and its tolerance regarding harassment.
Three of the most important preventative measures include:
- Having a clear anti-harassment policy
- Conducting trainings on what counts as harassment
- Providing an easy and safe way for employees to report harassment
Ensure your workplace implements these measures and communicates them to employees.
2. Diversify your leadership
What your leadership team looks like can either amplify or dramatically decrease harassment in the workplace. Diverse voices in leadership are more likely to create a culture that doesn’t tolerate harassment in the first place. But, even when it does happen, the victim of harassment will feel more comfortable to report harassment if he or she feels reflected and represented among company leadership (Harvard Business School professor). A culture that embraces leadership diversity is one that is more likely to get ahead of workplace harassment.
3. Provide a way to anonymous report workplace harassment
Your company’s reporting system can define your culture and its tolerance for harassment. If your reporting system is simply an open-door policy or a third-party hotline, employees might feel like reporting is useless, which can allow harassment to linger. If you have a strong reporting system, you show that you not only take harassment seriously but that you want to listen and put an end to it. When choosing a harassment reporting system, look for options that:
- Are easy to use. If employees have to take 20 minutes to report, they most likely won’t and the issue will continue.
- Have an option for anonymity. Employees are rightfully worried about retaliation for reporting. Implement a reporting system in which employees can be completely anonymous.
- Make handling complaints uniform. If you have a clear system for handling complaints, you’ll be able to process complaints more quickly and make your employees feel safer, sooner.
“Cultivating a culture of awareness, empathy, and ‘if you see something, say something,’ makes it an inhospitable environment for would-be harassers,” said HR Tech Insider, Debbie Shotwell.
4. Take disciplinary action
The EEOC recommends that employers take “immediate and appropriate corrective action” when harassment occurs. “Immediate,” “appropriate,” and “corrective” are all equally important factors in handling harassment complaints, and failing to meet any of these factors implies that your workforce might have a culture issue. When you deal with a harassment case, take action as quickly as possible, and work with the harasser and the victim to determine what “appropriate” action looks like to them. Be sure that the action is legitimately corrective. Failure to take further disciplinary action is a clear cultural concern.
FirstVoice is a reporting solution that helps you address harassment and improve your culture.