Method 1 of 10: Set clear policies that follow the law.
- “Workplace harassment is improper conduct by an individual, that is directed at and offensive to another individual in the workplace, including at any event or any location related to work, and that the individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm. It comprises objectionable act(s), comment(s) or display(s) that demean, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat.… Harassment is normally a series of incidents but can be one severe incident which has a lasting impact on the individual.”
Method 2 of 10: Make sure everyone understands the policies.
- Lay out the policies in writing and in detail, but also make sure to provide ample opportunities for workers to ask questions—both in group settings and individually.
- Consider breaking up the process into multiple, shorter components instead of doing a single marathon training session.
- Confirm that everyone understands the policies, potentially by signing their name to a document.
Method 3 of 10: Lay out procedures for reporting harassment.
- For example, spell out that workers should put their harassment complaints in writing and present it to their HR representative. At the same time, make it clear that all reports of harassment will be taken seriously, regardless of the official procedures. For example, if an employee reports harassment verbally to their supervisor instead in writing to HR, clarify that this report won’t be ignored.
Method 4 of 10: Make your disciplinary process clear but adaptable.
- Corrective actions might start with verbal warnings and move up to formal reprimands, training sessions, suspensions, transfers, and terminations as warranted.
Method 5 of 10: Ensure that the complaint-maker isn’t punished.
- For example, suspending the harasser as your blanket approach could end up punishing the complaint-maker by dramatically increasing their workload. In this case, transferring the harasser and replacing them with another team member might be more appropriate.
- As another example, making the entire workforce go through an extended workplace harassment “refresher course” might lead other employees to blame the complaint-maker for it. Instead, you might have the offender go through specific training and carry out company-wide refresher courses on a regular schedule that isn’t tied to any particular complaint.
Method 6 of 10: Model respectful workplace behavior.
- No, you can’t prevent all harassment through your own actions, but you can help create a workplace culture that values mutual respect.
Method 7 of 10: Confront harassment that you witness.
- For example: “Tom, that joke about Anne’s appearance was disrespectful and inappropriate. It’s extremely offensive to her and damaging to all of us when that type of behavior goes on in this office.”
- Or: “That comment about my religious beliefs was way over the line, Pat. I deserve—and we all deserve—a workplace free of harassment like that.”
Method 8 of 10: Watch carefully for signs of problems.
- Increased negativity or even hostility in the workplace.
- Decreased communication and cooperation among workers.
- The development of workplace cliques.
- Increased complaints about issues that may not be directly related to harassment.
- New or worsening “turf wars” among individuals or groups.
Method 9 of 10: Act as a mediator to resolve issues.
- Say, for example, you saw your co-worker Anne being subjected to inappropriate teasing by your other co-worker Tom. You might pull Anne aside and ask her if she’d like you to help resolve the issue. If this is what she wants, you can then facilitate a discussion between Tom and Anne that identifies the inappropriate behavior and ensures it’s not repeated.
- Keep in mind that Anne has every right to say “no” to your offer and to report the harassment instead.
Method 10 of 10: Offer your support.
Your support can range from encouragement to a witness statement. If a co-worker confides in you that they’re being harassed, let them know that it isn’t their fault and that it shouldn’t be allowed to continue. Encourage them to make an official complaint when appropriate, and offer to co-file the complaint or make a witness statement if you’ve actually seen the harassment take place.
- Targets of workplace harassment often feel isolated and unsupported. Do your part to make sure that individuals in this situation can feel like they have someone on their side.