You might have a robust and fully-transparent anti-harassment policy. But there are still a host of businesses out there at risk of sexual harassment claims, fines, and lawsuits unbeknownst to company leaders. There are managers, mid-level and C-level, who may be turning a blind eye to sexual harassment in the workplace, putting your company at risk. Here are some reasons why along with what you can do to ensure your ethics policies and procedures foster an environment of reporting, no matter who’s in charge.
Why Managers Might Turn a Blind Eye
Everyone can fully agree there is no place for sexual harassment in the workplace. So, why would any manager condone or allow such behavior to go unchecked? You’d be surprised. In some instances, the offending employee happens to also be a top-performing salesperson responsible for bringing in revenue or contributing significantly to departmental goals. Managers with such an employee might ignore the occasional report of bad behavior, thinking they’re preserving company revenue. In some cases, sexual harassment goes unreprimanded because the offender has been with the company as a loyal employee for years. But even the old dogs still need to learn new tricks, no matter how incredible they are in their roles or valuable they are to the bottom line.
Investigations and Inquiries Are Expensive
Unfortunately, some managers and executives responsible for taking steps to curb and prevent instances of sexual harassment also have budgets to consider. No one wants to fire a top-performing rep who’s bringing in thousands or millions for the company. But investigations are time-consuming and costly, too, and can lead to bad press or compromised company culture. On the surface, some managers turn the blind eye, hopeful the situation was an isolated instance or that it will remedy itself. Unfortunately, not taking action could lead to even more costly scenarios and even further company damage than proper investigation upfront.
The key to communicating and enforcing a zero-tolerance for sexual harassment lies in definitions and accountability. How you define sexual harassment will provide clear instructions for employees to identify and report bad behavior. Sometimes, comments are made off the cuff that aren’t intended to be harassment. It doesn’t excuse the comments because there’s no intent. However, these instances can be avoided with the proper training of what constitutes harassment in the first place.
Actual Knowledge: These instances are sexual harassment that occur in plain sight. They’re visually observed or overheard directly. For management, actual knowledge means they’ve either witnessed an act directly or have been officially made aware by way of a complaint or report. In these instances, your managers should know precisely what to do next, including further reporting, investigation steps, and enforcing consequences.
In addition to enforcing sexual harassment training initiatives, talk with your management teams about how they interpret and react to harassment reports. Be ongoing with these conversations to ensure you impress the importance of proper handling and reporting. And then implement an ethics hotline, so employees have an anonymous channel for reporting, bypassing the direct-to-manager reporting. Let Ethical Advocate guide your efforts and keep your company free of any sexual harassment claims.