A healthy workplace environment doesn’t just mean having a comfortable cubicle, air-conditioned offices, and plush sofas. It also includes creating a safe, open and harmonious atmosphere free of prejudice and violence. Workplace harassment cases have been happening for a long time now and it is the duty of the management to ensure the safety of each employee. Most women who face workplace harassment (sexual or otherwise) have nowhere to turn to. They often have to seek help from outside. As a manager, it is your responsibility to create a safe and healthy working space for all employees irrespective of their gender, caste, creed, and nationality.
Listed below are some simple yet effective ways how office managers can address the issue of workplace safety for women. Check them out:
Formulate Strict Workplace Policies
Formulate strict workplace policies that are accessible and understood by everyone in the organization. These policies must clearly state the behavior standards, conduct, and limits of the employees. A company must have a dedicated team for ensuring and enforcing workplace safety, where the office staff can file complaints or place queries in case of a problem. Also, as a manager, it is your responsibility to formulate a strict sexual harassment policy that must be circulated among the employees regularly. There are loads of harassment policies available online that you can implement within your organization. Other measures include installing security cameras for better surveillance of the workspace.
All the employees, right from the low ranking office staff to the highest of management officers should be aware of the rights that they have within the organization. Also, everyone should know and understand the company policies and laws that safeguard their rights and state their duties in the workplace. Men and women both need to be aware of what kind of behavior is considered acceptable. State the rules and limits of workplace behavior clearly to avoid confusion and conflict in case of a harassment case.
Transparent and Open Communication Channel
As an office manager who is in charge of a set of employees or a department, it is your responsibility to maintain a transparent and open communication channel. Arrange for meetings, seminars, events and group discussions with your employees and talk to them. They should be free to approach the manager and discuss their fears without any hesitation. Maintain a comfortable and open relationship with your subordinates and seniors alike. This helps you deal with the situation better.
Take Immediate Action against the Offenders
Many times the harassment cases fail to trigger immediate action even when they are reported. This discourages the other victims to open up about their traumatizing experiences. Also, not taking the appropriate action against workplace harassment cases is a heavy blow to the company’s reputation. An employee might resign, or take legal action against the company that fails to support and provides the necessary justice. If you have ample proof against someone, ensure that the offender gets a strict and harsh punishment (terminate their contract or take other legal action against them) to set an example for future cases.
Setup an Internal Complaints Committee
Every organization must have an internal group or community where women can approach the officials and file in complaints or discuss their problems. The female employees in a company are often afraid to speak out and report a case of harassment, sexual or otherwise. This is because most enterprises don’t really have a complaints’ cell where people can anonymously report cases of misbehavior and violence. As a part of the management team, it is your duty to provide a safe and free environment to the employees working under you.
A Balanced Male-Female Employee Ratio
Now, most organizations have an imbalance in the male to female employee ratio, that is, there aren’t enough women in the organization as compared to men. It is always better to have a balanced workplace environment. It not only creates a more harmonious atmosphere but also gives the women a sense of security. Working in a department where there are no other female employees might be difficult and uncomfortable for a woman. There are greater chances of sexual abuse and objectification of the female employee who is singled out in an enterprise.
Arrange for Immediate Psychological Help
A victim of harassment might not always be physically abused. In most of the cases, she is mentally traumatized. Victims suffering from depression might show signs of anxiety, mood swings, and fear. It is the responsibility of the management that they not only provide the necessary first-aid and medical help but also give them the psychological assistance to recover. Have an in-house shrink or professional who can help them cope with the difficult experience. Having a female expert around also helps the women in the company feel at ease as they can call in and discuss their fears freely without the fear of being judged or ignored.
The females in an organization aren’t just susceptible to sexual harassment; many times they are also exploited and marginalized just because they belong to the fairer sex. Women are often considered meek, weak and submissive, so much so that people think it okay to harass them. For a woman employee to truly feel comfortable and happy inside an organization, it is necessary that you understand and support them in any way possible. Go the extra mile, distribute pepper sprays and security systems to help them avoid harassment. Also, arrange for defense classes and martial arts programs that empower women and give them the confidence to fight back.
The Bottom Line
Harassment cases are not just sexual in nature. Anything that hurts the employee, whether physical, sexual, emotional or mental by other inhabitants of the organization can be counted as workplace harassment. With correct policies and a strict and supportive management, the company can get rid of these notorious elements from the organization and ensure a harmonious and healthy workplace environment.