The climate of the workplace today is often tense and unsure. The growing awareness of women’s rights, alongside the Me Too movement in Hollywood have brought sexual harassment to forefront in companies across the country. This increased awareness has given countless women hope where none was before. But why is sexual harassment still so prevalent? Is it the fault of the individual, or can company leaders take responsibility to address the issue and cut it down before it can ever happen? Let’s take a look at how company leaders can make a change in the workplace.
Lead by Example
It may seem simple, but the most effective way that a company leader can affect change in the work environment is through leading by example. If a company leader shows zero tolerance for sexual harassment, then every employee that works for that person will understand that it is not an acceptable practice. Therefore, the likelihood that inappropriate behavior will take place drops significantly.
But how can a leader actually show that they are against sexual harassment? Are they supposed to walk around all day shouting “I don’t like sexual harassment!”? No, that would be pretty strange. What they can do is show their opinion through their daily actions. For example, always showing respect and professionalism around every employee, man or woman.
This is the best way to establish an anti-harassment environment. If the head of the company behaves this way, then their subordinate leaders will be more likely to treat all their employees with respect. This overall respect will trickle down, and eventually permeate the entire company, top to bottom. This is the ideal situation, and all starts with the company leaders.
Crack Down on Inappropriate Behavior
No matter how great a company is, and no matter how tough their screening process, there are sure to be some bad eggs that slip through the cracks. When these people show up, there is only one way to deal with them. The best practice when sexual harassment occurs is to consistently punish it with a strong hand. We’re not here to establish your company policy on sexual harassment, but we can say that it needs to be harsh enough to deter further behavior, and it needs to be consistent across the board.
A sure fire way to kill and sexual harassment in a company is to terminate any employee that engages in that kind of behavior. However, situations like this can often be complex, and sometimes it can be difficult to identify what events actually took place. This is why sexual harassment issues need to be approached carefully and thought out thoroughly. Unless there is clear evidence of misconduct, punishment can become a tricky matter.
Of course, preventing these situations in the first place is the goal. Instill an open-door policy and establish and independent hotline, so that any employee that feels uncomfortable in their workplace can feel safe to report inappropriate behavior before it escalates. This is a tried-and-true method for combating sexual harassment.
Establish a Culture of Equality
As a company leader, one of the best ways to prevent sexual harassment is to establish diversity in leadership. Gone are the archaic days of the old boys’ club. An environment like that only lends itself to inappropriate behavior, even when it’s comprised of the best people. However, when leadership is split between men and women, as well as across all races, it leads to respect across all different kinds of people.
The hope here is that any potential sexual harassers will see women in leadership positions and realize that women should be respected in the workplace, and not sexualized. If company leaders want to diminish sexual harassment, a good place to start is to promote qualified and skilled women into leadership roles. Key is that any promotions should be given on merit first. If other employees feel a woman has been promoted simply based on gender, they will not respect her new role, and any attempt to establish equality will effectively be reversed. Of course, the importance of merit is also applicable to men being promoted.
Done correctly, a good mix of diversity in leadership is an excellent way to make a company more respectful overall. It gives employees exposure to different kinds of leadership, and makes for a more accepting and tolerant atmosphere.
Let All Voices Be Heard
An important aspect of leadership in general is to allow all voices to be heard. Holding regular meetings where all employees are encouraged to participate has been proven to be an effective tool in company morale and performance. But how would it look if this same policy was taken with sexual harassment?
First of all, if you open the door to all employees to voice their opinion on how a company’s sexual harassment policy should be handled, you get a better sense of the company’s existing weak points. It also empowers employees who may have previously felt unable to make a positive change. Opening a conversation like this for all employees can be effective because they will feel it is their choice, and not a faceless policy forced upon them. Of course, as a leader, there is a general direction that you should be aiming for. But if you can get there on the ideas of your employees, it will be infinitely more powerful.
Fixing A Bad Situation
If you are starting from a bad place, where a company has been riddled with sexual harassment, it may be more difficult to find a good balance. Often in these situations, the problem can be rooted out in the management. However, if the environment is entrenched in inappropriate and unethical behavior, it may be far more widespread than just management. This is where tough punishments and strict policy become necessary.
Don’t think you are without help. Red Flag Reporting has made it possible for anyone to have their voice heard. We are here to protect your employees, assets and reputation.
So, all company leaders out there: a good company environment starts with you. Can you become the source of change?