When discussing sexual harassment, I am frequently asked what to watch for to determine whether harassment might be occurring in their workplace. It is a problem for managers, who are rightfully concerned about it, but can’t be everywhere all the time.
As a manager, you might not be present when an alleged incident of sexual harassment takes place. But, some warning signs may point to potential problems. Here are a few things you should watch for:
- Whispered sexual comments and staring when members of the opposite sex pass by.
- People frequently gather and tell sexual jokes, stories, or make innuendos.
- Employees are subjected to sexual looks, stares, leering or ogling.
- Sexually explicit materials, screen savers, pictures, or calendars are in the workplace.
- There is deliberate touching, cornering, back rubs or leaning over individuals.
- Employees get addressed in a sexual manner.
Management Principal: Make clear to your employees that harassment by supervisors, co-workers and third parties will not be tolerated and that reporting objectionable behavior will not result in any form or retaliation–even when the harasser is a key person in the organization.
So what should you do to ensure that they have a harassment free workplace? There are five key steps to take:
- Send the message loud and clear to all employees (and vendors, customers, and visitors) that harassment of any kind will not be tolerated here. And if it does occur, it will be dealt with swiftly and severely.
- Model respectful behavior. Position and power does not mean dominance and disrespect. Productive companies value and respect all their employees, regardless of their position or gender. They foster a culture that can best be described as egalitarian.
- Train all managers annually on harassment prevention and investigation procedures. Educate all employees on harassment with a clear message that we won’t tolerate it, but if it occurs we will protect you and we will do something about it.
- Have clear policy in place—and make sure that everyone reads it and understands it. There must never be any question in anyone’s mind about the company’s position and everyone must know what will happen if harassment occurs.
- Train everyone in interpersonal communications and conflict resolution. Give employees the tools to address problems as they occur—but always provide them with a safety net if they can’t resolve the issue.
There is no place in the workplace for harassment. Employers and employees need to get that.
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