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How To Avoid Harassment in the Workplace

In a perfect world, harassment in the workplace would be long gone. Unfortunately, harassment is a reality and has resulted in far too many victims; one in four women and one in ten men report to being sexually harassed at work.

Harassment can and does come in many forms. Any of the following actions can be qualified as harassment in the workplace:

  • Slurs towards other employees
  • Any acts that relate to someone’s demographic and can be taken as aggressive or hostile
  • Condescending or violent jokes or pranks
  • Written or graphic material displayed or circulated in the workplace that shows aversion towards a group because of race, color, religion, gender, etc.
  • Conduct that creates an offensive work environment for employees
  • Verbal abuse or jokes, either sexual or other in nature
  • Unwelcome sexual advances, which can include discussing of sexual activities or physical attributes and unnecessary touching
  • Negatively and intentionally influencing the work of coworkers

It’s important to define workplace harassment, that way you can properly place measures to avoid it. If you are subject to the federal anti-discrimination laws, that’s a good place to start when defining what harassment means for your workplace.

The best way to avoid future harassment in the workplace is to establish policies and procedures now, rather than after an unfortunate situation occurs. Follow these steps to properly prevent workplace harassment:

  1. Define harassment and communicate this to all employees. Create an anti-harassment policy and fully educate all employees on exactly what that policy means and entails.
  2. Establish a complaint procedure and make sure employees know to whom they can speak with.
  3. Make sure clear consequences are established and disciplinary actions are taken after complains.

It’s important that an open channel of communication is maintained between employees and managers, or those who will be handling possible harassment claims. Moreover, make sure employees have a second person they can come to with workplace harassment claims if necessary.

Every year, almost 2 million American workers become victims of workplace violence, according to OSHA. Equally as alarming is the fact that a significant amount of cases remain unreported. Despite efforts, employees might not be able to speak about experiencing harassment in the workplace. If you start to notice someone in your workplace talking, experiencing or hiding any of the following signs, be conscious of potential workplace harassment.

  • Getting physically ill before the workweek starts
  • Sudden and unexplained signs of mental distress
  • A rapid, unexpected change in work performance
  • They seem exhausted and lifeless with no desire to do anything
  • They get repeatedly criticized in front of others for no known reason
  • They take all their time off for “mental health breaks”

The best way to prevent workplace violence is to talk about it now. Make sure employees understand workplace violence and are comfortable recognizing its signs. These efforts will create a safer, more productive workplace.

Harassment in the workplace is a danger to employees, workplace efficiency and your company. Contact Huffmaster today for help implementing, training or creating your plan to combat workplace violence.

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Mike Saad, CPP

Senior Director Consulting Services at Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC
Michael Saad is Senior Director of Consulting Services, Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC. He is responsible for the security consulting line of business for the company. In that capacity he manages security program evaluation, corporate policy and procedure development, federal security compliance initiatives, corporate investigations, security threat and vulnerability analysis, and business risk management.
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