Read the news, had a conversation or just stepped outside during the past month? Then you’re aware workplace sexual harassment is real, perverse, and present in every industry. How is this STILL A THING in 2017? Because companies haven’t prioritized building harassment free workplaces.
But they can. And while there is no quick fix solution, the first few steps are pretty clear.
Convince Companies to Care
Beyond the argument that everyone should have the right to work free of harassment, ending workplace harassment makes good business sense. In 2016, the EEOC awarded over $482 million in damages for workplace discrimination charges. And that’s just from filed claims. While the true cost of sexual harassment is incalculable, consider the costs of lost diversity, higher rates of turnover, and absences. Talent drives success and profit. Companies that figure out how to effectively combat workplace harassment are going to have a competitive advantage over their competitors in their ability to attract and retain top talent.
Human Resources Isn’t the Only Solution
I’m usually the advocate for HR’s ability to solve workplace conflict, but here I urge caution. The modern workplace has put HR in an impossible to navigate position. From The New York Times, “…for some human resource officers, conducting an investigation into harassment allegations against a top executive or star performer can be hazardous to their own careers. The result can often be that human resources personnel are more inclined to suppress allegations than get to the bottom of them.”
A Four Step Solution
1. It Starts From The Top
Top management must embrace the need for change. This includes male and female bosses. We’re talking true buy-in, not just lip service.
2. Set the Policy And Stick With It
Write a clear and concise harassment policy that both outlines methods for reporting, but also the steps that will occur once a complaint is filed. Setting the process before an event occurs allows for an unbiased response every time. We’re fans of this template from SHRM.
And then follow it. No matter what. This is where most companies go wrong. Even if the accused is a top performer, or a senior executive. Not following the process, even once, results in lost credibility with your workforce reducing the likelihood harassment will be reported next time.
3. Adopt A Team Approach
Develop a team based approach for investing harassment claims. First, for the diversity of experience and resources a team brings. But second, team based investigations comprised of individuals from different departments and seniority levels protects members from retaliation freeing them to conduct an honest investigation.
4. Information Share
Websites like Glassdoor and Fairy GodBoss give employees more information than ever to make informed decisions about a company’s culture. If companies won’t fix the problem, the rise of information sharing will solve it for them by running them out of business. Share your experience at your workplace, predators rely on silence.
Is this all that needs to be done? Of course not - but they are a step in the right direction.
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