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What Would You Do?: Stop Harassment Before It Starts

While there’s no fail-safe way to stop harassment in the workplace, there are things you can do as a supervisor to address the problem and lower the chances of a legal predicament.

Bottom line: Preparation is the key to preventing harassment -- or at least to preventing a harassment issue from blowing up into a scandal. If you know how to educate employees about harassment policies and definitions, document incidents and refer employees to the right company resources for handling harassment, you’re doing your part as a frontline manager.

Here are a few tips on your role in preventing harassment in the workplace, according to Don and Sheryl Grimme’s article titled "Prevent Workplace Harassment -- Top Ten Tips":

Know your company’s harassment policies. Your company should have clear, assertive written policies concerning discrimination and harassment. Most policies include clear definitions for what falls under harassment and what the consequences are for those who violate the policy, according to the Grimmes. If your company doesn’t have an official policy, bring up the issue with your supervisor and offer to help create a written document.

Learn how employees can lodge complaints. When you train employees, go beyond just defining harassment and warning them of the tough consequences. You’ll also want to let them know who they should turn to if they do want to report harassment in the workplace. Ask your supervisor or your Human Resources department how employees should proceed with documenting an incident, and then pass on that knowledge to your staff.

Keep your employees informed. Everyone on your staff should have access to the company’s harassment policy. In addition, it’s a good idea to verbally reinforce the company policy, say the Grimmes -- not only when you hire an employee but on a regular basis through meetings or one-to-one talks. Communication is especially important if there are any changes to the policy.

Acknowledge and investigate any harassment complaints. If your company expects you to document a preliminary report of any harassment incidents before HR gets involved, make sure you give every party in the incident a chance to contribute to the documentation. You should also maintain as much confidentiality as is possible considering your company’s procedures, recommend the Grimmes. After you hear all sides of the situation, you should then pass on your documentation through the correct company channels so that the HR department can take action.

Keep your eyes open for behaviors that may lead to harassment. Observe your staff and try to recognize borderline-inappropriate behavior that may cross over into harassment. If you aren’t sure how to spot questionable behavior, check out


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