There’s no denying it: now more than ever before, being aware of and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace (and any place) has reached high levels of priority.
And not just because this problem exposes your company to potentially severe legal problems. When you have a work environment or culture that makes employees feel unsafe, your best employees will leave — and you’ll have a real problem hiring talented people to replace them.
While many of us mistakenly thought sexual harassment was a thing of the past, recent revelations in the news and social media prove it’s an ongoing and very serious problem — one that none of us can sanction or tolerate. If you’re a leader in your business, it’s up to you to ensure your workplace is a safe and professional space for people to get their jobs done.
Create a clear policy. The first step to ensure sexual harassment doesn’t become a problem where you work is creating an anti-sexual-harassment policy and requiring every employee to read and sign it. In this policy, clearly define what sexual harassment is, state it absolutely won’t be tolerated, and provide a streamlined procedure for employees to make complaints while ensuring they will be investigated and acted on promptly.
Train everyone. Of course, it’s not enough to give your employees a few sheets of paper to read and expect that to change your culture — it won’t. The next step is to provide sexual harassment training for your people, which provides a more in-depth look at why employees have a right to a safe and comfortable workplace, and what to do when they face harassment. Stress that disciplinary action will be enforced if necessary.
Counsel quickly. Finally, when an employee acts inappropriately at work — sending up a red flag by crossing the line into an uncomfortable zone for his or her coworkers —immediately provide informal counseling to the employee. Being frank about the consequences of inappropriate behavior is an effective way to catch sexual harassment early on — nipping it in the bud before it becomes a larger problem.
Sexual harassment is an ongoing problem that has often been swept under the rug. That response no longer flies in any organization. When we pretend problems don’t exist, we allow them to continue. As employees and employers, we must do the necessary work to curb sexual harassment and stamp it out of the workplace. It’s the right thing to do, after all, and it’s up to each of us to set the example for others to follow.