Workplace harassment training: Key tactics for managers

The Seven Fundamentals of ManagementThe nature of work is a social activity. There are even times when the social nature of work relationships extends beyond the workplace.

However, it is important that employees strive to respect each other as individuals and to avoid behaviors that may even be remotely interpreted as unlawful harassment. That’s why workplace harassment training is so essential.

Unlawful harassment is any form of verbal or physical behavior which is unsolicited, unwelcome and interferes with a person’s work performance or creates a threatening work environment due to a person’s gender, race, color, religion, national origin and physical or mental handicap.

Particular emphasis should always be placed on the definition of harassment as it applies specifically to sexual harassment.

Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) generally do not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.

Workplace harassment examples

Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances:

  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the victim.

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take appropriate steps to prevent and correct unlawful harassment.

For good companies, it is always important to establish high performance expectations and to demand those expectations be met. A core value in any good organization is respect for the dignity of the individual.

That means every person has the right to work in an environment free from verbal, physical or harassment.

Unlawful harassment destroys morale and interferes with productivity and job enjoyment of its victims and their co-workers.

Some specific examples of behaviors managers need to watch out for both in themselves and the people they supervisor include:

  • Verbal harassment behaviors such as making sexual comments about a person’s body, telling sexual jokes or stories or talking about sexual fantasies, orientation or history in any form including one-on-one or group discussions, e-mail or any other way.
  • Non-verbal harassment such as displaying sexually suggestive material or giving unwanted personal gifts.
  • Physical harassment including touching or brushing up against someone in a sexually suggestive manner or touching yourself in a sexual manner in front of another person.
  • Potentially dangerous social situations such as pursuing dating relationships with subordinates or being placed in a situation, which is prone to misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Employees should be barred from evaluating the work of others with whom they have consensual dating and/or romantic relationship and from making hiring, promotion, salary or other financial, work location or work related decisions of any kind concerning such persons. Any employee who becomes involved in a consensual dating and/or romantic relationship with a direct supervisor or subordinate should be required to immediately and fully disclose the relationship to the supervisor’s superior.

Employers are also wise to have clear instructions and how any employee can report harassment All complaints should be investigated immediately and treated in a confidential manner.

This is the last in a series of articles on the 7 fundamentals of management. To see the other articles, please go to The 7 fundamentals of management page.

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