• March 6, 2018
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With the recent focus on sexual harassment, your company may wish to revisit your sexual harassment policy. An effective policy will address behavior expectations and begin to transform the culture and environment in your business. Consider adding the following information to your existing policy as you protect your employees, prevent sexual harassment and create a healthy and safe work culture and environment.

Adjust the Culture

To secure a harassment-free workplace, change your company’s culture. You can hire and promote more women, provide equal pay for both genders and embrace diversity. Ideally, the culture will respect and value men and women and treat both genders as equal. In this environment, your employees look out for each other, treat each other with respect and strive to create a workplace that’s welcoming, safe and kind to everyone.

Encourage Civility

While you want your employees to avoid sexual harassment, you should also encourage them to act in a civil manner to one another. Ask your employees to brainstorm ways they can show respect and kindness to their co-workers. Examples include offering praise, not interrupting and sharing the workload. Then provide scripts, videos and other resources that teach your employees how to deal constructively with rude behavior, listen without being dismissive, give credit where it’s due and remain civil always.

Empower Bystanders

Your harassment policy will include guidelines for reporting incidents. It should go a step further and equip bystanders to recognize and address wrong behavior.

Bystanders don’t have to engage a harasser in the moment and escalate the situation. However, after the situation diffuses, the bystander can talk openly with co-workers and ask if others saw the questionable behavior.

In the meantime, bystanders can suggest something like, “Hey, that joke is not funny.” They can also cause a distraction like making a loud noise or asking the victim for help.

Bystander intervention may also include asking the victim or target of harassment if they thought the interaction was silly, consensual or offensive. At that point, the bystander may wish to accompany the victim to the human resources department and enter a violation report, a step that demonstrates solidarity.

Simplify Reporting

Anyone who experiences sexual harassment must know who to tell, trust that they will not face retaliation and feel confident that the issue will be handled promptly and professionally. Your reporting system will meet these needs. Also, consider implementing EEOC suggestions that include offering rewards to departments with high reporting counts and giving dozens of employees the responsibility to receive harassment reports. These changes encourage reporting and improve the atmosphere in your company.

Hold Frequent and Effective Trainings

Lectures on the dangers of sexual harassment no longer work. Incorporate interactive presentations, role-playing activities and trainings geared to your specific workforce and challenges. Everyone in the company, including management, should attend the frequent trainings as you strive to educate your employee, change ongoing bad habits and reform the culture.

Review the Employee Handbook

In addition to addressing the culture, revisit your company’s sexual harassment policy. It must define sexual harassment and should include ways employees can recognize harassment and the steps they should take to report violations. Additionally, make updates such as:

  1. Include all genders and sexual orientations.
  2. Add gender-neutral language that addresses harassment by both men and women and removes gender stereotypes.
  3. Include disciplinary guidelines.

Then require all your employees to read the handbook and sign a form that verifies they have read it. Post the policy on your website and app, too.

Your business must take sexual harassment seriously, especially this year. Take these steps as you address this challenge, update and improve your sexual harassment policy, and create a safe, healthy and civil workplace.