How to make reducing workplace harassment a company focus for 2019

Written by Natalia Sketchley on 1 March 2019 in Features
Features

Natalia Sketchley gives TJ tips to make whistleblowing easier in the workplace.

Reading time: 3 minutes.

The #MeToo movement has uncovered widespread prevalence of sexual abuse in all manner of high-profile areas, such as politics, business and Hollywood. Whilst the movement may have originally surrounded high-profile figures, it soon spread to concern the wider issue of harassment in the workplace. 

Despite the lamentable circumstances, raising the conversation has had an incredibly positive impact, in that it has become harder for victims to be silenced or disbelieved, and many victims have found strength in solidarity to come forward and share their story.

The #MeToo movement also appears to have led to an 11% increase in the reporting of workplace harassment within the first months of when the movement first began. 

Despite this, there’s still a lot of work to be done – particularly in the workplace. Here are four actionable points that will help make your organisation a safer and more supportive environment for your employees.

Zero tolerance

Your organisation should already have a zero-tolerance line on harassment, and any reports of such behaviour should be swiftly investigated as soon as possible. However, it’s advisable to reinforce this stance and remind your employees that not only will you treat all reports with the weight they deserve, furthermore, they’ll be investigated impartially and the appropriate remedial action will be taken.

Taking the fear out of speaking up about wrongdoing makes it much easier to take a positive step and address the issue – ultimately helping to stamp out workplace harassment.

Periodically offering your staff refreshers on company policy regarding harassment is important as it keeps the issue near to mind for long-standing staff and ensures that newer employees are clear on the company’s stance. Company policy should also provide clear guidance on what the company determines as acceptable behaviour and what is deemed as harassment.

Depending on your company’s scale, this could be covered in a single, company-wide meeting or within individual team meetings, combined with the points in the following tip.

Increase training 

As mentioned above, refresher sessions outlining company policy as well as legislation and employment law are the perfect precursor to more in-depth training. 

This could be online courses providing definitions and best practices for handling and reporting harassment that can be made easily accessible to all employees, including the executive leadership. It may then move on to a more discussion-based element or even small workshop tasks. 

Depending on your company’s scale, you may wish to involve an external agency to provide additional face-to-face training, as such an important and serious topic is best tackled by people experienced in the issue and its various nuances. 

Encourage reporting 

It’s a sad reality that many victims or witnesses of workplace harassment may feel concerned about the consequences of reporting it to their employers. 

This may be particularly true if the perpetrators are in the senior levels of a company. In these cases, the victim or witness may fear that their identity will be revealed, resulting in them being pushed out, their integrity being called into question. 



During your regularly scheduled refresher training, reinforce the importance of reporting harassment in the workplace. The aim is to disrupt the status quo and create an atmosphere where perpetrators have nowhere to hide.

This can only be achieved by encouraging individuals to report and making it easier, safer and more desirable to actually make reports – which leads me on to...

Implement a whistleblowing helpline

Providing a whistleblowing hotline with multiple methods of both anonymous and identified submissions is the easiest way to encourage your employees to report on any wrongdoing they see. Taking the fear out of speaking up about wrongdoing makes it much easier to take a positive step and address the issue – ultimately helping to stamp out workplace harassment.

Do you have any tips for combatting workplace harassment? Have you identified any sticking points that our workplaces need to work through to create a more positive working environment? Let us know down in the comments.

 

About the author

Natalia Sketchley is a writer for NavexGlobal.

 

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