HR can take the lead on successfully addressing harassment in the workplace.
According to a recent study, workplace harassment plagues many companies and affects how employees feel about their jobs and their employers. However, there is much health care organizations and other companies can do to protect employees and minimize complaints.
In a survey of 500 US full-time employees, 35% of respondents said they feel that they have been harassed at work. The number is higher among women, 41% of whom made this claim. Three-quarters of those who said they were harassed identified the harasser as a male, and over 70% said they were victimized by someone in a senior position. However, workplace harassment isn’t limited to bosses and employees. Nearly one in five (17%) of survey respondents identified their harasser as a customer or vendor.
According to the survey results, large and small companies alike experience harassment claims. However, smaller companies seem to fall behind their larger counterparts in addressing this problem. Just 39% of companies with fewer than 200 employees have implemented workplace harassment policies in the past 12 months, compared to nearly two-thirds of organizations with more than 1,000 employees.
Harassment often goes unreported for various reasons, including:
- Fear of hostile work environment
- Fear of retaliation
- Fear that management wouldn’t properly handle the situation
- Fear of retaliation by the harasser
Tips for Creating a Harassment-Free Workplace
To create a positive workplace environment, the survey suggested, employers must encourage everyone who experiences or witnesses harassment to report it. Survey authors suggested some steps for organizations to take:
- Educate employees about harassment
- Model a top-down culture of inclusion
- Watch for red flags, such as an employee or employees being reluctant to work with a particular coworker
- Address any allegations, reports, or rumors of harassment promptly
- Conduct regular employee surveys to stay on top of the issue
Several states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, and New York, have passed laws requiring employers to provide sexual harassment training. However, even in states that don’t have formal statutes, the handwriting—via, federal/state laws, regulations, and court decisions—is on the wall; and employers everywhere would be wise to provide anti-harassment training to all employees. This training should cover issues such as abusive conduct, prevention, discrimination, and retaliation, as well as information about harassment related to gender identify, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
By creating a culture of mutual respect and putting an emphasis on thorough, detailed harassment prevention training, employers can help protect employees from harassment and the company from liability.