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Career Monday: A Manager’s Guide to Preventing Sexual Harassment at Work

If you’re a manager at your workplace, it’s important for you to be aware of sexual harassment and how it can affect the company’s work environment.

What is sexual harassment? It occurs whenever an employee makes a continued, unwelcome sexual advance, requests sexual favors, or uses inappropriate sexual remarks to another employee against their wishes.

Examples of sexual harassment may include:
● Unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive writing on clothing, or comments of a sexual nature
● Any kind of unwanted physical contact between employees, including scratching, hugging, or kissing
● Repeatedly asking for dates
● Sending emails that contain sexual imagery
● Watching pornography at work
● Putting sexually suggestive objects or pictures on display
● Playing sexually suggestive music

So what can you do to prevent sexual harassment at your company?

Use these strategies:

1. Incorporate harassment training in your workplace. Have regular training with annual refresher courses. There are online courses available that can help deal with harassment in the workplace.

2. Have a sexual harassment policy in place. In this policy, set out what is acceptable and what is not. It is important that all employees make themselves familiar with this policy, including how to report any sexual harassment encountered.

3. Raise awareness of sexual harassment. One of the most effective ways to prevent harassment from occurring in the first place is to make people aware of it. Once people understand what can be interpreted as harassment, they’ll be able to avoid it.

4. Have clear procedures in place to report harassment. All employees should be comfortable to report any behavior they feel is inappropriate and makes them uncomfortable. Staff should feel safe at work and not left to feel alone while dealing with inappropriate colleagues.

5. Incorporate staff welfare into review meetings. These are usually used to review an employee’s performance, but they can also be an opportunity to review the company. Allow your colleagues to voice any concerns that they may have, either with the company as a whole or with one particular colleague.

6. Deal with allegations of sexual harassment immediately. Failure to act could allow the problem to get worse. This toxic environment will make your employees uncomfortable.

7. Have a person in place dedicated to dealing with harassment. This can be difficult in smaller companies with employees having to juggle numerous roles, but in larger companies, a dedicated HR person who deals with sexual harassment issues can make the employees feel more secure.

8. Have a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment. Make it clear to all employees and colleagues that any form of sexual harassment will not be tolerated. It does not matter what role the person performing the sexual harassment has in the company, any cases will be dealt with immediately.

9. Do not laugh at or encourage inappropriate jokes. While it’s important that we all enjoy ourselves at work, it’s also important that we all understand that not everyone has the same sense of humor. Sometimes things said can be offensive rather than funny to some. Keep this point in mind, even in jokes.

If you believe that you’re being sexually harassed at work, it’s important that you complain to someone in authority there. Doing this will ensure that your employer is able to take action and you can go back to work without having to deal with disrespectful colleagues.

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