It may be easy to think that there’s never been a better time to talk about sexual harassment in the workplace. With the #MeToo movement, founding of Time’s Up and ousting of harassers from powerful positions across industries, it seems like now is the time to take on the issue of sexual harassment with gusto.
Ideally the time to take on sexual harassment isn’t after it happens, it’s before. Protecting employees from harassment needs to shift from a reactive response to a proactive plan.
As a business owner or manager, you can help initiate institutional changes to how your company protects employees from harassment by taking a proactive approach. Dealing with this problem before it begins can help protect your employees and the company as a whole from a lot of difficulty down the road.
Proactive measures you can use
What can your company do to prevent harassment in the workplace? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission identifies five key elements to consider in preventing harassment:
- Training tailored to the specific company and group
- Accountability across all levels
- Well-articulated and enforced harassment policies
- Effective reporting and complaint procedures
- Demonstrated dedication from leadership
These general principles are good starting points for your company’s proactive strategy. No one policy can work for every company, but the basics are a place to start crafting specific policies and expectations.
A company’s harassment policy is the first line of defense for a target of harassment. A defined set of expectations acts as a reference guide to enforce what is and is not acceptable in your workplace.
The importance of effective reporting
In addition to laying out what qualifies as harassment, a well-articulated policy should include descriptions of the reporting process.
The reporting process is one area that will vary widely based on the company. Employees need to know who they can report harassment to, but each company can define that system in the way that makes sense.
A large corporation with a dedicated HR department may have more personnel dedicated to receiving reports, but a small company can still offer a number of avenues for employees to utilize in reporting harassment. Team leads, managers, HR, a hotline, an online reporting system; there are many options for providing a means to report harassment in the workplace.
Employee safety is a top priority in an effective workplace environment. You don’t have to wait until after an instance of harassment to do something about the problem. Proactive solutions are available to protect your employees and your company from the dangers of a hostile work environment.