If you’ve read a news headline at all over the last 6 weeks I’m sure you have caught a glimpse of one of the most dominant stories of 2017. The consistent and seemingly never-ending allegations against some people in powerful places from entertainment, politics, sports, and the list goes on. So, why does this overwhelming issue in popular culture have an impact on the corporate world? Because anything that we see as a microcosm of one group of people is oftentimes a symptom of a larger group of people.
One of the most recent revelations of sexual abuse brought the role of HR to light. A television anchor was fired after a coworker reported these atrocious acts to their Human Resources department. The HR department acted swiftly in response to the report. We all have a lot to learn when it comes to reports of this magnitude. Here are a few tips to give you the wisdom you need to support your staff or client during this trying time:
Take every report seriously: too many times we hear that the offender was reported more than once but there was no action taken by those in positions of power. It’s not enough to say you take sexual harassment/abuse seriously….if you actually don’t.
Have policies in place to facilitate reporting sexual harassment claims: the mishandling of claims is typically due to a lack of preparation. Be proactive in creating systems that protect the integrity of the process your organization will employ to handle claims that are reported
Maintain confidentiality: Investigating claims of sexual harassment/assault is a sensitive topic and protecting the identities, and details, of those involved is of extreme importance. The policies you create in #2 should include guidelines on information that is shared only with “need-to-know” parties such as law enforcement, legal representation, and the like.
Act swiftly: When you have the proper policies and procedures in place, you take the reports seriously, and maintain confidentiality, you are able to act swiftly when claims are made. In order to protect your workforce against false claims or subject them to continued harassment/abuse.
The legal ramifications that can come along with properly addressing sexual harassment claims makes it imperative that your HR department, or those assigned the duties of HR, are trained in how to address these concerns. Inappropriately addressing these issues impacts staff recruitment & retention, organizational culture, and overall staff morale. An absent or ineffective HR department could spell the demise of your organization.