Back in the day, workers in both the blue collar world and the white collar world joked around with co-workers about things that were, let’s say, sexually sensitive. I remember working in a couple of warehouses where jokes and insults and harassment were constant. When I moved to the white collar world, things were not as open but still the same jokes, etc.
Thankfully, people today have become free to express their sensitivity and offense. Let’s be honest, most of the jokes and insults were out of place. And while some never intended to offend or harass co-workers (while others simply did not care if they were harassing or not), some people have felt tortured and may have left a job due to being harassed or even bullied.
Today, more than ever, it’s important to provide a safe workplace for your employees. Not just physically safe, but safe from harassment, sexual or otherwise.
Several weeks ago, a business owner told me that one of his employees left due to being sexually harassed. The owner was shocked and stunned that this employee felt harassed in any way. All of his employees (in the shop) are male and he knew that they joked around and gave each other a hard time, but never dreamed anyone was feeling sexually harassed. For some, the attitude is that “being able to joke and horse around helps the time go faster and relieves some of the stress of the workday. “ Unfortunately this sometimes goes too far and leaves someone working in a hostile environment.
As a business owner, you may be tempted to just throw in the towel. After all you can’t watch the employees every minute of the day. But there are some steps you can take to reduce your risks:
- In your employee handbook, make it clear that the company does not tolerate bullying, harassment, or any employee creating a hostile work environment for another employee.
- Prior to the employee starting the job, provide written guidelines and training.
- Provide ongoing training. Make sure you document the training and make sure every employee is accountable to complete the training.
- Provide a confidential way for employees to report any type of harassment. Make sure and document the complaint and document what was done to investigate the complaint and the end result.
- Clearly define your procedures for training, reporting, and investigation in your policy and procedure manual.
This may seem a little overwhelming. After all, this is not why you got into business. But to have ongoing success and to protect your business, you need to address these types of issues. If you need assistance, please don’t hesitate to call or send me an email.