Employees should feel reasonably comfortable in their workplaces. They should not worry about being subject to bullying or other such forms of harassment.
Sadly, some workplaces are not as healthy as others. Employers must take steps to prevent their work environments from becoming hostile or uncomfortable. Ways to do so include the following:
The term “hostile work environment” is fairly vague. One of the most significant roadblocks you may face when guarding against a hostile work environment is struggling to explain to someone why their behavior or actions have contributed to making the workplace one in which others may not feel as comfortable as they deserve to.
Thus, it’s important to clearly establish what types of behavior are considered to be forms of harassment in your workplace, and how instances of harassment will be dealt with. Research any applicable laws and consult with specialists if necessary to ensure your definition of harassment and hostile work environments is thorough. By setting strict company policies, you will demonstrate to all employees that preventing a hostile work environment is one of your chief goals and that employees who disregard these policies will be subject to disciplinary action.
Although a clear company policy can play a major role in guarding against a hostile work environment, you must consider the fact that not all employees are proactively consulting their employee handbooks or other such documents to confirm whether their behavior constitutes a violation of such policies.
Thus, you need to supplement your policies with thorough training. Create and implement mandatory programs illustrating examples of harassment, and use these sessions to educate workers on how they can report or address instances of workplace harassment in a manner that is consistent with company policy.
Be certain you and all other high-ranking members of the organization are setting a positive example for other employees by monitoring your own behavior and communication style. You don’t want to send mixed messages to your workforce by establishing anti-harassment policies, only to violate these policies yourself.
Some employers worry that employees may report instances of harassment when no genuine harassment is occurring because they wish to get revenge on coworkers who they dislike or believe to have slighted them. This may prevent them from investigating all reports of harassment.
Is it possible certain employees will report harassment not because it’s happening, but because they want to get others in trouble? Potentially. However, you should not consider this to be a likely scenario. Instead, you should take all reports of harassment as genuine. Make sure HR conducts thorough investigations when reports are made, and if it is determined that a complaint is valid, take decisive action in accordance with the policies you have already established.
Unfortunately, not all employers take these steps. If you’re an employee who feels they are working in a hostile environment, unless HR is properly addressing the issue, it may be necessary to seek legal assistance to ensure those responsible are held accountable.
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