Combatting workplace harassment: An employer’s guide

Workplace harassment is so common that HR professionals always have to be on their toes to prevent it. Whether you own a big company or a small one, if a case of harassment gets reported, it is always bad news for the company. Some of the many disadvantages that the company faces due to this are:

  • Legal issues
  • Employee demotivation
  • The bad reputation of the company in the market

Any behavior, act, or statement that creates an uncomfortable working environment for the employee comes under workplace harassment. No employee can perform their best if they work in a hostile environment. Companies that invest in ensuring the safety and comfort of the employees have a more loyal workforce. Here are a few steps that you can take to ensure that your workplace is a safe space for everyone who is a part of it.

  • Invest time in developing detailed and comprehensive policies. Employees should get provided with a small handbook to read or shown a video that describes different types and scenarios of workplace harassment. This way, they will be in a better position to identify it. The situations should be relevant to your business or industry. It would also be useful for employees who tend to cross the line between casual discourse and inappropriate conduct. Seek legal advice to review your harassment policy and get it approved according to your federal and state laws. The policy should get updated regularly.
  • Provide employees with detailed training. Make it compulsory for your human recourses department to conduct regular training sessions focusing on workplace harassment. The training should be mandatory for employees at all levels. The training should include the names of the resources that the targetted person can confide in. In the current working conditions, the training sessions can take place online.
  • Instructions should be given to the human resources department, or the employee relations department, to act on every complaint immediately. In many reported cases, the victim complains that the authority figures take too long to address their complaints. Make sure that those responsible for dealing with such sensitive issues must address them on priority. The employee, alleged harasser, and any witnesses of the alleged harassment must always be available for investigation until they come up with a conclusion.
  • Keep the doors of communication open with the employees. They should never feel that you are unapproachable or disinterested in their concerns. When employees feel that their employers are concerned about their well-being, they feel more motivated to bring out their best at work.
  • Employers should make sure that their managers do not discriminate according to race, sexual orientation, or the gender of the employees. Harassment often takes place by a person in power who feels that the person harassed has limitations. An inclusive environment where the hierarchy is not based on any discrimination will keep potential harassers at bay.
  • Ensure that every employee that joins the company knows the repercussions they will face in case they are found guilty of any sort of harassment. You can take the help of your company’s legal advisors to come up with a list of actions that will be taken against harassers and how it will affect their future employment.
  • Since due to the pandemic, many companies have resorted to working from home, which has increased another form of harassment: cyberbullying. Most work communication is now online, so it is even more difficult for human resource managers to monitor the team’s behavior. Examples of cyberbullying at work include sharing humiliating things regarding the victim through group chats or group emails or sending harassing messages directly to the victim. Employers can combat this by installing employee monitoring apps such as XNSPY. Apps like XNSPY give employers access to all their employees’ emails, text messages, phone conversations, social media, call logs and web browsing history. Employers can make it mandatory to install the app on each employee’s work phone. They can then monitor all their digital communication remotely. It is a great way to keep the employees on their toes. It will prevent them from indulging in any illegal practice.
  • Keep in mind third-party harassment. It is a type of workplace harassment that is initiated by someone from outside the organization. The potential harasser is not a colleague, a boss, or a supervisor. Instead, they might be a vendor, a client, or a supplier of the company. Often, third-party harassment does not get reported because the victim feels that their company is not responsible for the behavior of the third-party harasser. However, a responsible employer must take action against the harasser, just the same way they would if the harassment had taken place inside the organization. Employers should ensure that third-party harassment gets mentioned in the official policy against harassment made by them.