Facility Security, Policies and Training

Dealing with Workplace Harassment, 3 Mistakes to Avoid

Workplace harassment is a pervasive issue that too often gets overlooked or simply dismissed by those with the authority to address issues before they escalate. Maybe employees on the receiving end of a workplace bully don’t feel comfortable reporting the incidents, or perhaps they don’t know what resources are available to them. Who should they turn to, HR? Security?

Office employee being sexually harassed by her boss

grinvalds / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Did you know that:

  • 81% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime and that 38% of the harassment they experience occurs inside the workplace?
  • That 75% of people have been affected by workplace bullying?
  • And that 48% of African Americans have encountered discrimination in the workplace alongside many other minorities, and have also been harassed?

These numbers highlight the fact that workplace harassment needs to be top-of-mind for security and HR professionals alike, specifically in the wake of the #MeToo movement and Starbuck’s infamous diversity training day. Yet many professionals still aren’t sure how to address workplace harassment, and for many organizations security and HR aren’t even on the same page. As such, they are making mistakes that can have lasting and profound consequences.

Below are three mistakes that you’ll want to avoid when you’re addressing workplace harassment.

1. Not Developing and Properly Communicating a Comprehensive Policy

If you want to mitigate and prevent workplace harassment, then security, in conjunction with HR, must develop and implement a comprehensive policy that is then shared with every single employee. The policy should include all types of harassment that can occur and that won’t be tolerated inside your workplace, as well as to whom employees can contact if they experience or witness an instance of harassment.

Also, the policy should explicitly state how reports of harassment will be handled and processed for investigation, as well as what the consequences will be for each instance of proved harassment (i.e., written warning, department reassignment, termination).

And, the policy should always be shared with every new and existing employee so that he or she always knows where to go for this information. If harassment policies aren’t properly communicated with employees, then they will not be followed or respected.

2. Failing to Properly Train Managers and Supervisors

If you have implemented a harassment policy, then make sure every manager and supervisor is trained in how to help employees report instances of harassment and that they understand how to report issues of harassment they witness, too.

They should also know how to properly address workplace situations in which an active investigation is going on and the harassed employee still must work with or around his or her alleged harasser, so that everyone feels safe and that retaliation doesn’t occur. They should also fully understand what will happen if they are accused of harassing an employee or peer.   

3. Only Focusing on Organizational Liability

When addressing instances of workplace harassment, don’t focus so much on official reports and organizational liability that you forget about the real people who are involved in the situation. Remember to be patient, pay attention, be empathetic, and to always be responsive. Don’t forget to keep all parties updated regarding investigations and what is required of them, including required paperwork, evidence, and various forms of recommended counseling.

If you want your organization’s harassment prevention strategies to remain effective, be sure to avoid the three mistakes highlighted above. We also suggest that you read Should Harassment Prevention Training be Mandatory in the Workplace? for more insight and information, too.