In recent news, it seems like a new report of harassment comes to light every day. As organizations working within the social impact sector, it’s important to live up to the values we’ve established and take all allegations of harassment seriously.
As a manager you may not have the training or the experience to deal with the situation directly, but you can still help your employee take next steps when they come to you with a complaint. If someone on your team comes forward with an allegation of harassment, you’ll first want to be aware of the language you’re using when documenting the incident. In Fast Company’s article, “Managers: What You Should Do When An Employee Reports Harassment,” Janine Yancey, an employment attorney and founder and CEO of Emtrain, says it’s “important that they make factual determinations rather than legal conclusions, or any other conclusions regarding potential policy violations.”
“Factually describe the situation without using loaded terms like ‘harassment’ or ‘inappropriate,’” Yancey advises. “Just write the facts and consequences of those facts,” she says. “If described well, the company will see the risk and take action.”
Once your employee opens up to you, it’s important to let them know that as their manager you will look into the situation and reassure them that their privacy will be protected. Giving them the peace of mind that they won’t face repercussions for reporting the harassment makes it more likely that they will come to you again with any difficult workplace matters.
Of course, there are ways to be proactive, not just reactive, to make clear what will not be tolerated in your organization. Creating a clear policy regarding harassment allows employees to understand what constitutes harassment as well as how to report it. In Nonprofit HR’s article, “Preventing Workplace Harassment & Protecting Victims at Your Nonprofit” they suggest that this policy should “seek to eliminate confusion and protect those who report what they perceive as harassment.”
“To ensure serious offenses are not written off as mere annoyances, your organization’s official anti-harassment policy should define what constitutes harassment, the individuals and conduct covered by the policy, how to report an incident of harassment, how employees will be protected from retaliation and how perpetrators will be disciplined and/or terminated, should that be the appropriate course of action.”
Once you’ve created formal systems and policies regarding harassment, the next step is getting your employees to buy in by training staff in harassment prevention, including bystander intervention.
“Make it clear that everyone is responsible for preventing harassment in the workplace, and encourage staff to speak up if they recognize a problem, even if the behavior is not directed toward them. To ensure members of your team do not feel discouraged from reporting secondhand instances of harassment, emphasize both confidentiality and the importance of protecting fellow team members.”
Harassment situations in the workplace may be challenging to navigate, but hopefully taking these steps can help your organization create an environment where employees feel safe and valued.