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How To Train Your HR To Fight Harassment


Thanks to the ongoing #MeToo movement, harassment in the workplace is in the public eye like never before, and HR departments everywhere are scrambling to keep up with the rapidly changing tide of public opinion. Most managers today understand how crucial it is to fight harassment in and out of the office at every turn, but recent developments and technological advancements have blurred certain lines and made it challenging for HR pros to make wise decisions. So, what can HR departments to do meaningfully fight harassment without wasting their money, or making things worse?

Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way towards conquering harassment in the workplace and forging a better and more equal work environment for everyone.

Creating a welcoming workplace

At the heart of all anti-harassment campaigns is creating a welcoming workplace where absolutely everyone feels included and safe. Forging a comfortable, transparent environment where workers feel safe to come forward with harassment complaints won’t be accomplished overnight, however; HR departments need to understand that the struggle against harassment is a sustained effort, and can’t be brushed under the rug after a few initial changes are made to placate concerned workers and the public.

When it comes to designing the best workplace on Earth, you should listen to the pros and usher in institutional changes that stymie harassment at every turn, but understand that there are small, personal approaches you can take towards fighting harassment, too. For instance, out of work gatherings that help bind an office community together are a great way to ensure that your employees trust and appreciate one another, a vital step towards getting them to avoid conflict and prevent situations that develop into sustained harassment.

To gain the real trust of your workers, you’ll have to make meaningful commitments to their wellbeing; protecting whistleblowers, for instance, and ensuring total confidentiality within your HR department are absolutely vital towards your success. If your workers don’t feel safe coming forward, or if they’re worried that they may face economic repercussions like the loss of their job for reporting harassment, you’ll never be able to meaningfully stamp out excessive or even harmful badgering in the workplace.

Part of ensuring this confidentiality is enforcing transparency rules when higher-ups in the company act out; if situations of assault or harassment are brushed under the rug because they were carried out by managers, bosses, or company owners, then your employees will essentially be operating in an environment of fear. Arm your staff with cellphones with good mobile phone insurance so they can call anonymously should any issues happen. If you don’t lead by example, and hold those in power at the top more accountable than anyone else, you can’t possibly hope to fight harassment with any level of success.

 Understand it goes beyond HR

While you may be trying to focus your efforts on retrofitting your HR department to deal with scandals like sexual assault, which seems to be occupying a well-deserved permanent place in the public’s ongoing conversation about workplace safety, you need to understand that your efforts to fight harassment have to extend beyond your HR officials, too. If your company’s employees aren’t recruited and weaponized against harassment in the workplace, those nefarious actors who prey upon isolated, disadvantaged employees will continue to get away with their crimes.

In other words, culture matters, and you can’t afford to let your lower level, non-HR employees get off the hook if they deliberately knew of an instance of harassment but didn’t report it. Encourage everyone in your office to come forward if they see something, and remember the strong confidentiality and whistleblowing protections you’ll need in place to guarantee that they have opportunities to report harassment without fear of reprisal.

Employees need to be briefed ahead of time about what to do in harassment scenarios, not informed about what to do in company training exercises that happen after the fact. A strong workplace culture that emphasizes the good Samaritan rule, or stepping in and helping others in their hour of need, will go miles towards helping you clamp out harassment in your office. Resources made available ahead of time, too, especially digital forms that let workers report harassment easily while remaining anonymous, will help prevent these situations from ever occurring in the first place.

Of course, you can’t avoid all instances of harassment; sometimes, instances of harassment slip through institutional defenses unseen, and wreak havoc upon innocent employees who are unfairly subjected to sexual leering or physical intimidation. That’s why your HR department should be investing in therapy and trauma help for victims, too, and be striving to let them know that they’re heard, loved, and appreciated in the workplace. Small steps like this add up over long periods of time, and will prove invaluable in the fight being led by HR departments everywhere against the scourge of workplace harassment.

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