Supervisors and managers have a higher level of accountability when it comes to creating a workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination. Despite your best efforts to create a respectful work environment, you may one day be faced with an employee complaint that he/she is experiencing harassment in the workplace. Being pro-active and knowing the role and responsibilities you have as a manager will help make a challenging situation less stressful.
What can you do now to be prepared?
- Increase your knowledge around the importance, nuances and laws regarding diversity, inclusion, and harassment within the workplace.
- Review your responsibility in contributing to a respectful workplace.
- Become familiar with your organization’s policies on harassment and the reporting protocol to be followed when a complaint is brought forward.
- Understand your organization’s expectations regarding your role and responsibilities as a manager.
- Learn about your personal and professional liability.
- Notice situations that may have the potential of escalating and talk with your HR professional to get advice and understand his or her role in the process.
What is harassment?
An employee who is feeling harassed will most likely describe the experience by referencing some of the terms highlighted below. These terms are important to be familiar with in addressing a complaint and in promoting professional behavior within your workgroup.
- Diversity is the existence of many unique individuals in the workplace. This includes men and women from different countries, cultures, ethnic groups, generations, backgrounds, skills, abilities, and all the other unique differences that make each of us who we are.
- Inclusion means a work environment where everyone has an opportunity to fully participate in creating business success and where each person is valued for his or her distinctive skills, experiences, and perspectives
- Stereotypes are an exaggerated or oversimplified idea about a person or groups of people involving gender, race, national origin, or other factors. Even so-called positive stereotypes can be harmful due to their limiting nature.
- Prejudice is an adverse judgment or opinion formed before facts are known; a bias without reason.
- Discrimination is the treatment of people based on their belonging to a particular group.
- Harassment is any unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of people in the workplace. It may be related to sex, sexual orientation, race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, genetics, veteran’s status, disability, age religion, nationality, or any personal characteristic of the individual. Bullying, gossiping, inappropriate comments, or communications can embarrass, diminish, or destroy others. It may be recurring or an isolated incident.
In my next blog post I will focus on the impact of harassment in the work environment.