Workplace Harassment: Creating a Culture of Support

Workplace harassment needs to stop.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that it won’t ever completely stop. There will always be harassment & discrimination and there will always be someone that thinks it’s ok to treat someone else in a way that they don’t want to be treated. With that, business owners and managers have a duty and an obligation to create and maintain a safe work environment in which all employees are treated fairly and appropriately.

That doesn’t mean conducting harassment training only once a year. That doesn’t mean keeping your head in the sand and thinking that it doesn’t happen at your company. That doesn’t mean waiting for someone to report an incident and/or file a claim. That doesn’t mean chalking it up to be “this is how the industry is”.

That means playing an active role in ensuring that inappropriate behavior does not happen in the workplace. That means being aware of the culture and tone of the company and creating an environment in which all people are respected and treated appropriately. That means paying attention to the employees and looking for changes in behavior. That means having a place for employees to be able to report situations without fear of repercussion. That means swiftly investigating and taking the appropriate action when a claim is filed, or a situation arises.

Managers and business owners need to understand how terrifying it can be for an employee to, 1. Be in a situation like that at work, and 2. Say something about it to their employer. The fear is amplified particularly if the allegations may be against someone in a position of seniority, power or even a high producer or otherwise highly regarded employee. Simply having an anti-harassment policy and steps for employees to follow are not enough. The employees need to know that the policies will be followed and that they have a trusted and open line of communication within the company to be able to bring forth issues and concerns and that they will be appropriately addressed. What you’re telling the people who file claims of harassment when nothing is done is that the business and the person the allegations are made against are more important than anything else, and the person filing the claim doesn’t matter.

Companies must do the right thing and not wait until they are forced to because the situation might go, or does go, public. It doesn’t matter what industry it is in, it is never ok for it to happen and it is never ok for it to be allowed.

Each and every employee has the right to work in a work environment that is free from harassment, discrimination and a work environment in which they are respected as a human being.

And if you are a business owner, or a manager, or a team leader, it starts with you.

-Deanna Arnold
Owner, Employers Advantage