Let’s be clear, harassment comes in many forms – be it sexual or otherwise – and it is certainly not confined to the tech industry. While the Employment Equality Acts are in place to ensure all employers are obligated to prevent harassment in the workplace, more can be done when it comes to developing a workplace environment that stamps out harassment of all kinds.
Being the go-to department for dealing with harassment in the workplace, HR is crucially placed to help companies knock both harassment, and bullying, on the head. Of course there are many ways to tackle this issue – from having harassment policies in place to disciplinary action, however, there’s one aspect of business which is becoming increasingly important when dealing with harassment in the workplace: company culture.
So, here are 4 ways in which organisations and HR professionals can promote and uphold a strong company culture that is open, fair, and fosters the necessary conditions to help prevent harassment in the workplace.
1. Ensure Voices are Heard
Speaking out is often one of the hardest things to do for victims of harassment of any kind. Organisations simply must create a company culture where speaking out about problems or issues, no matter how big or small, is the norm. This relies on HR professionals ensuring that all employees are encouraged to speak their minds and are not afraid to express how they feel.
Importantly, what may seem like a small issue to one member of staff may not be for another. It is vital that HR departments realise this to ensure that harassment in all forms is being prevented. Giving employees both the confidence and the platform to talk about issues affecting them at work creates a company culture that promotes fairness and equality. When employees know they have a voice and are being listened to, it’s more likely for them to find the strength to come forward - in turn creating an invaluable company ethos and team spirit.
2. Clear the Grey Areas
When it comes to identifying and stopping workplace harassment it is very important that a company, as far as possible, sets out policies that are void of grey areas. This means generating a culture that is always open and crystal clear with what is, and is not, tolerated in the workplace. In turn, each and every employee must know the boundaries which cannot be crossed. One person’s joke may be another person’s insult – HR professionals must always keep this in mind and treat every issue of harassment with the seriousness it deserves. In a nutshell, the clearer an organisations policy is, the less likelihood of grey areas.
3. Keep Check on Positions of Power
Unfortunately, abuses of power are often the cause of workplace harassment. It is vitally important, therefore, that HR professionals make sure to treat all members of staff on a level playing field when it comes to dealing with issues of harassment. Remember, there is a vast array of different types of harassment, which may be hard to detect. For example, not giving someone a promotion due to their age, gender or race, is a form of harassment that HR professionals may not spot at first. So, it is astutely important to keep an eye on the inner goings on of the office, especially the power dynamics, to prevent all forms of harassment. Creating a company culture that bases its management system on respect and fairness throughout its ranks will go a long way to helping stop workplace harassment.
4. Promote Diversity
Last, but by no means least, harnessing a company culture that both promotes and champions diversity is key to preventing workplace harassment. As businesses diversify more and more, drawing in talent from all over the world has become an essential way for organisations to increase talent acquisition, productivity and profitability. After all, it is only through a diverse workforce that businesses can have a fair, well-measured opinion on the requirements of its customers. Of course, HR professionals need to be aware that a melting pot of cultures and opinions can lead to more workplace clashes and managing this is a crucial aspect of HR nowadays.
Clearly, company culture is not a silver bullet for dealing with workplace harassment. However, upholding a strong company culture that encourages employees to speak up and promotes diversity can go a long way when it comes to tackling workplace harassment. Businesses striving to create the most open, fair and value driven processes they can is no longer an option - it’s a necessity.
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