Companies are required to offer their employees a workplace free of harassment, whether psychological or sexual. To do this, implementation of an appropriate policy is required. But how is it done?
Consider yourself covered
First of all, it’s not because the situation has never presented itself in your company – or you have never heard of it! – that you should not be concerned. Prevention is better than cure: establishment of such a policy may take some time, but the consequences will be much more unfortunate if there is harassment one day and you have not taken the necessary measures to manage it.
Define the problem
To prevent, avoid and deal with cases of harassment, you have to know what they are. It can be sexual harassment (indecent propositions, inappropriate physical contact, improper behaviour) or psychological harassment (insults, humiliation, repeated unpleasant remarks). Consult the law for a complete definition that will not let you overlook anything.
Train and educate
Prevention is the best weapon. Indeed, in many cases the person guilty of harassment is not even aware of it, taking his remarks which can be offensive or humiliating as mere jokes. That’s why it is important to train managers so they get the message to then pass on to their staff. They must know the gestures, words and attitudes to be avoided in order to create a work environment that is healthy and enjoyable to all.
Harassment is not just about your own employees: your customers and suppliers are also targeted. Let them know that you now have a policy on the subject and that they are required to respect it when they are in contact with your employees.
Too often, complaints are not taken seriously. One response to be avoided when an employee reports inappropriate behaviour is the well known, “Are you sure you are not exaggerating / haven’t imagined everything?” When an employee speaks to his or her superior or to human resources to report a situation of harassment, they must absolutely feel safe and listened to, otherwise they will be demoralized – even feel guilty – and, by word of mouth, no one will have the courage to come forward.
Finally, even if you manage to set up the most effective policy possible, it will serve no purpose if no one knows it exists! Emails, posters, booklets, meetings, information shared in personal interviews – make every effort to ensure that all your employees are aware of and know what resources are available to them if they are victims or witnesses to harassment in the workplace.