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Ask Anne: Stopping Sexual Harassment

Ask Anne: Stopping Sexual Harassment

The topic of the day is sexual harassment. Do you have any advice on how to keep it out of our workforce?

Sexual harassment is not a new problem, but it has been hidden, for the most part, for as long as I can remember. It’s been brought up on occasion, but one-on-one cases are about all I remember hearing. I surely have never turned on the daily news and been bombarded with a new “celebrity” name being accused of sexual harassment before the last few months.

Sexual harassment is bad for everyone and everything to do with a company. The goal is not to have it anywhere, let alone the workplace. And I do think there are some steps a company leader must take to help prevent sexual harassment in their workplace.

It starts at the top! Not with the HR folks putting out a Sexual Harassment Statement that says “it’s not tolerated.” I’m saying it starts with the CEO, president, or owner. The person in charge — the person with the power — is the right person to deliver and act out the message, which should be “there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment.” This person should live and breathe the message. If the CEO has trouble with this, perhaps due to their own indiscretions, they need to go.

Another practical idea is to build the “zero tolerance rule” into everyone’s performance evaluation. With a one-strike-and-you’re-out rule, employees will stay on their toes. They’ll be more aware of what they do and say and hear. (I know most people think I’m referring to men in this answer, but for the record, women are sexual harassers too. And women do wrongly accuse men occasionally.)

The lack of a safe place to report if you’ve been sexually harassed is one reason it goes unreported. Often, women don’t feel comfortable talking to their male bosses, or vice versa. I would suggest putting some space on your website where your employees could write in to report sexual harassment, or perhaps have a designated voicemail so the offended could leave a message. It needs to make the employee feel safe. It’s the job of the CEO and the managers to promote its use.

Lastly, whatever you do as a company, don’t let this matter slide. Once reported, an investigation must be done, and if the actions are criminal, they must be reported to the authorities. Sexual harassment can emotionally cripple people, often ruining their careers. Watch the news and you’ll see.
I manage a company with about 35 employees. We have an onboarding process that entails a meet-and-greet, completion of new hire, and benefits paperwork, and then the hire starts learning our software or reading our website. After that, we have a learning schedule and that’s about it. We do check on them periodically, but I know there must be more we can do to make the new people successful. Can you give me some ideas?

Most managers and owners are so relieved that they’ve filled an opening that they don’t think much about onboarding, much less getting a new person integrated into the company. Larger companies generally have an established process, but smaller companies should too, even if it’s not as extensive.

Some companies will have seasoned employees talk about how stressful situations are handled, what they do on birthdays, or, perhaps, what the boss is like. If your company is big enough, assigning a mentor is a great idea. Formal mentoring can be weekly for the first 60 to 90 days and then upon request. The mentor can be an invaluable source of support.

Supervisor meetings on a regular basis are vital. Bosses, put them on your calendar. You’re the people that matter, and new people need to know where they stand with you. Make sure the new employee is a cultural fit by talking about the contributions team members make regarding goals, projects, outside-the-office activities, etc. It’s a time you get to know the new employee and make sure they fit into your organization.

During the first 90 days, you should learn if the new hire is a fit or not. No one wants to make a bad hire, but if it happens, it’s better to say good-bye quickly. Hope it doesn’t happen to you!
Anne Williams is the president of JobFindersUSA. She is not an attorney. All content in this column is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality and is not to be construed as legal advice.

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