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How managers can help prevent sexual harassment at work

Published by: LifeWorks,

Sexual harrassment

Managers have a responsibility to help prevent sexual harassment at work and to respond promptly and adequately if it may have occurred. In addition to posing significant legal and financial consequences to an organisation, incidents of sexual harassment can undermine productivity, morale, attendance, retention, and recruitment. Employees who are sexually harassed or work in an environment where such harassment occurs feel more stress and have trouble focusing on their work and staying loyal to their organisation.

Know what is considered sexual harassment

It is a vital part of your job as a manager to know what kinds of behaviour may be considered sexual harassment on your part or on the part of people in your group. Behaviour that seems harmless and inoffensive to some employees may be unwelcome and offensive to others. Set proper behavioural boundaries for yourself and your team, and send the message to employees and colleagues that you will not condone harassment of any kind in the workplace.

You should work closely with your human resources (HR) department whenever you have a question or concern about possible incidents involving sexual harassment and how they should be handled.

Be a role model. Employees will look at your behaviour as well as how sincerely you communicate your organisation’s policies regarding sexual harassment. To set a good example, never use words, phrases or share jokes that could be misinterpreted. If your management style is relaxed or “laid back,” make a special point to take a tough stance on sexual harassment.

Make clear to your group that sexual harassment is unacceptable. Inform people of the types of behaviour that may constitute sexual harassment. Let your employees know that you are committed to a safe and respectful workplace and will not condone harassment of any kind. Tell them that if they ever have concerns or questions regarding harassment, they are to discuss them with you. Share this information as part of your orientation with every new employee who enters your department, whether a new hire or a transfer.

Watch for and stop behavior in your group that might constitute sexual harassment. The behavior may get worse if you ignore it. Immediately contact your HR representative or your manager to determine the best approach to take.

More support for managers looking to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace is available for LifeWorks clients. Log in at any time by going or connect by mobile app. There you can search for “sexual harassment” for more articles and resources.

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