Sexual harassment is a blight upon professional working environments. Harassment of this nature is the kind of thing that can cause employees to feel unsafe or uncomfortable at work. Your work environment will never be good if even one employee thinks they are unsafe. Therefore, every workplace must mitigate sexual misconduct in every way they know how. But many employers are unfamiliar with addressing, detecting, and handling sexual misconduct at work. The best way to handle sexual misconduct is to prevent it in the first place. Keep reading for seven ways to mitigate sexual harassment at work.
1. Have an Airtight Handbook
To mitigate sexual harassment or misconduct at work, you must have a clear sexual misconduct policy. That policy should be stated in your employee handbook; every employee should have a copy. Every employee should be asked to read it upon being hired and asked some comprehension questions to ensure they understand it.
Here are some things that you should include in your sexual misconduct policy.
- A clear definition of what sexual misconduct is
- How employees should report sexual misconduct
- Describe how investigations will take place, including a timeline
- Describe the actions that will be taken for employees that violate the sexual misconduct policy
Your definition of sexual misconduct should be specific and include mention of the Title VII Civil Rights Act. This is the main law that protects employees from sexual harassment. Many definitions lose their gravity when they become too vague or include too much legalese.
Remember that there are many types of sexual misconduct. It can be explicit (groping, name-calling), or it can be more subtle. Subtle forms of sexual misconduct include playing explicit songs or watching explicit content on a work computer.
These are things that some employees may not recognize as sexual harassment. Therefore, naming these things in your handbook educates your staff. This can mitigate future occurrences of these types of incidents.
Always include in your handbook a clear pathway for employees to report sexual misconduct. They should never feel confused or have no one to report to.
Including a timeline for investigations helps employees know what to expect. Listing the penalties for sexual misconduct also shows your staff that you have a no-tolerance policy regarding harassment. When they learn that on day one, it will influence their behavior moving forward.
2. Take Action Appropriately and Quickly When You Experience Misconduct at Work
It is your responsibility as the employer to investigate every single incident of sexual harassment that you hear about. It does not matter if it is blatant harassment or subtle. An objective party must thoroughly investigate every single complaint.
Of course, every business hopes that these complaints never arise. But don’t be so optimistic that you venture into the territory of naivete. Just because you don’t hear complaints doesn’t mean harassment is not occurring.
To ensure that people feel comfortable reporting harassment, you must act appropriately and quickly. What does this mean?
Taking action quickly means immediately launching an investigation. Do not allow the investigation to drag on or linger. Once the investigation has been concluded, following up with the person who filed the complaint may be necessary.
Remember, the most important thing is that everyone feels safe at work.
Discussing the details of an investigation with anyone other than the people involved is not professional or moral. Slipping up on this front can result in further harassment for the person who filed the initial complaint.
3. Develop Strong Leaders
As the employer, you probably have a trusted leadership team. Your managers, shift supervisors or regional employees set an example for the rest of your staff.
As such, they should be well-trained in every aspect of the job. This includes knowing how to spot and handle sexual harassment. The right leader will also be able to influence a positive work culture that will mitigate sexual harassment in the first place.
A strong team starts with strong leadership. Hire people for leadership positions with a strong commitment to mitigating harassment in all its forms. Ask management candidates questions about harassment scenarios in their interviews.
And once they have been hired, offer them additional harassment training. By choosing good leaders, you set the tone for your entire team.
4. Host Recurring Training
While having an airtight handbook is a good first step, many employees don’t refer back to it past their hiring date. You must host recurring sexual harassment training to keep the information relevant.
This training should be given to your whole staff, especially your leadership team. They should teach employees how to recognize sexual misconduct in the workplace and handle it when they see it.
The training should go over company policies once more. They should address what you should do if you are a victim of sexual harassment. They should also show you how to avoid sexual misconduct yourself.
But they should also include something called bystander intervention training.
Bystander intervention refers to the third person in a harassment scenario. Someone who sees what is happening but is not affected by it. Training bystanders to take action ensures that your team mitigates sexual misconduct as much as possible.
5. Check in with Your Team
Unfortunately, many instances of harassment are not reported until they have escalated. This is for various reasons, but one of those reasons is the person who was harassed did not know who to talk to or who to trust.
If an employee feels that way, you are the one responsible. It is a difficult truth, but you must come to terms with it as an employer. Here is how you can fix it.
Have frequent one-on-one meetings with different members of your team. If your team is large, ensure your leadership team is prepared to have one-on-one meetings with a select few. These meetings should be regular and in a relaxed setting.
These meetings can be to discuss work challenges, projects the employee is working on, or upcoming items on their calendar. But ultimately, it sends a clear message to your team: you care. The hope is that they will feel comfortable coming to you when a harassment issue first arises.
This way, you can stop the issue in its tracks. In addition to preventing a more escalated issue, you have done something crucial to a strong workplace environment. You have built trust amongst your team.
6. Institute a Solutions-Based Approach
Understandably, sexual harassment conversations often have a punitive tone. As a result, sometimes employees feel they have done something wrong before an incident occurs. Either that or their bosses don’t trust them to behave in the work environment.
This feeling makes employees less likely to take an active role in creating the desired work environment.
Therefore, one of the best ways to mitigate sexual harassment in the workplace is to use a solutions-based approach when talking to your team. Ask them to define the type of culture they want in the workplace and how they think they could achieve it. By allowing them to come up with their own action steps, you increase your team’s participation level.
Get your team to actively participate in creating a healthy work environment. This will help mitigate all kinds of harassment in the workplace.
7. Revise Your Sexual Harassment Policy as Needed
If there is one thing in your handbook you do not want to become out of date, it is your sexual harassment policy. When something changes, or if a new issue comes up, be sure to revise your policy.
For example, if your company hires a new Human Resources consulting agency, update that information in the handbook. You never want someone experiencing harassment not to know who to turn to with their complaint.
By keeping your sexual harassment policy updated in your handbook, you ensure the safety of your employees and mitigate sexual harassment.
Mitigate Sexual Misconduct at Work with These Seven Steps
Talking about sexual misconduct in the workplace can seem scary or intimidating. But it can make your work environment a better place to be. Teaching employees how to stop sexual harassment is the best way to mitigate sexual misconduct.