7 things wrong about Sexual Harassment at Workplace | HR Hates this # 4
Every employee deserves to feel safe, comfortable and listened to at work. Sadly, incidents involving sexual harassment and even assault are disturbingly common in the workplace. It creates an insecure and hostile work environment, which discourages both men’s & women’s participation in work. Before we even get to the POSH policies or training, we wanted to start with things wrong about Sexual Harassment at Workplace.
In this article, we are going to talk about “7 things wrong about Sexual Harassment at Workplace”. For any HR professional, it’s important to implement a strong protocol for dealing with harassment and keep your anti-harassment policy and training up to date.
#1 – Types of Harassment:
There are 2 types of Harassment – 1) Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment and 2) Hostile Work Environment. Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment deals with “This for That” kind whereas the Hostile work environment is more of a culture that fails to address unwanted acts of sexual or gender-based discrimination leading to negative behavior. Both are bad. Both are terrible but both have to be handled differently. One is active and the other is passive. What most HR professionals get wrong is they don’t make this differentiation and they don’t address it separately.
#2 – Harassment is all about Women:
Harassment is all about Women – here’s where we are wrong.
We make it so gender-specific, so women-centric that it starts becoming an embarrassment. Who talks about it are women, posters are all about women, publicity is provided to women and so it becomes a gender-biased topic, which defeats the whole purpose. We are fighting discrimination, particularly sexual discrimination but in a discriminating way.
So, let’s change this. Harassment need not be necessarily only about women & we need to approach it with Gender Neutrality.
#3 – Men or other communities are not harassed at all:
Wrong again! Yes, the % is very tiny, very minuscule but it does happen. Earlier it was all about 2 communities – Men & Women. Today it is not so. We have men, women, we have our gay & lesbian friends or we have our third gender sisters too. And while I do respect your personal thoughts, I don’t think we should be biased when it comes to our work. As HR professionals, we have an equal responsibility to protect not only men or women as tradition dictates but also to protect our new friends – the gays, the lesbians and the Third gender. All of these communities may get sexually harassed if we don’t understand them, if our employees don’t understand them.
#4 – POSH Policy & ICC:
We consult with organizations for having effective POSH culture, and I see that most organizations I work with already have a POSH Policy and an ICC but still end up having incidents of harassment. Why? Because just having a POSH policy and an ICC is more of a reactive approach than a proactive one. Both are heavily biased towards how to deal after an incident has happened.
In fact, LinkedIn’s 2019 global talent trends report specifically highlights that only about 44% believe a policy will help. What we need is a proactive approach. An approach that prevents. Not just a policy & ICC. Remember, Prevention is better than a cure.
A few ways of how organizations can focus on Prevention:
- Promoting a gender-sensitive workplace and removing the underlying factors that contribute to creating a hostile working environment
- Formulate and widely disseminate charter or resolution or declaration for prohibition, prevention and redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace
- Display conspicuously at the workplace, the penal consequences of indulging in acts that may constitute sexual harassment and the composition of the IC
- Declare the names and contact details of all members of the IC
- Organize workshops and awareness programs at regular intervals for sensitizing employees on the issues and implications of workplace sexual harassment
- Treat sexual harassment as a misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for misconduct
- Provide assistance to the aggrieved Individual in terms of counseling, psychiatric support, etc.
- Organizing orientation programs for members of the IC
- Provide necessary facilities to the IC for dealing with the complaint and conducting an inquiry
#5 –Training too few people:
The true story, an organization that has about 500 employees – only 1 senior person attending the POSH training. Another organization that had about 4200 employees across India – only 2 people who had come in. The question has arisen, how are 2 people going to disseminate this approach to 4200 employees? We can imagine that if they have virtual or online training.
Again, we don’t have unlimited resources or budget. But at least put it to the best use guys. So this is another area where we go wrong – There is just too much gap in the TOP-DOWN approach. You just have 1 or 2 or 3 senior people who undergo real POSH training & probably 1 or 2 sessions per year on the ground level. Nothing is going to change with this.
Example – This company has mandated a Knowledge Test on POSH for everyone who is likely to become a manager/TL & only if they clear this test, they will get that promotion. And the result is they have a great workplace with Diversity & Inclusion Minus POSH.
#6 – Firing employees involved in Sexual harassment:
This is another thing that’s wrong. A complainant should feel secure when talking about what he or she has undergone. At the same time, a respondent should have the confidence that the system, the policies, the ICC and everything, undertakes necessary investigations in a free and fair manner. Just because we don’t want to clean up shit, that we as HR professionals are in some way responsible for, doesn’t mean we should give pink slips to either one or both.
Don’t get it wrong. If the ICC’s investigation & subsequent decision is to chuck them out, go right ahead. But firing should not be the first action. I have seen in my consultations that companies don’t want to spend time doing the right thing and they just fire either one or both of them. Do the right thing & it cannot start by firing.
#7 – Light Up the room:
A classic OLD IS GOLD theory, if you want better productivity, just light up the room. A dark room is always a place for the devil.
You see, we all have POSH policies and ICC list. But where are they? Most times they are just invisible and hidden in some notice board among hundreds of things. This is also something we need to set right. An important part of changing culture and working towards prevention has to do with optimized communications. Again remember a mid-sized company, added the last slide in their internal PowerPoint templates which had a small reminder about Sexual harassment. Another example is where a company on every 3rd Friday celebrated a harassment-free workplace and they placed danglers in cafeterias.
Optimized communication is something we need to get right as well.
You already know by Law we need to have a Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal mechanism. We have a checklist in the link below, it talks about the minimum standards we should have for Sexual harassment.
Link to our Checklist of “Is your organization compliant with anti-sexual harassment laws”:
Links to other Important POSH related material:
We should correct the following :
- Deal appropriately with Quid Pro Quo Harassment and Hostile environment, differently
- Approach Harassment with gender neutrality
- Men or other communities could also be harassed & should not be ignored
- POSH Policy or ICC alone is not sufficient for prevention
- Training too few people is wrong
- Firing employees involved in Sexual harassment is wrong as well
- Optimized Communication kills the dark devil
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