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It should be the goal of every workplace to have a harassment-free environment, but in reality that doesn’t always happen.  To ensure that all managers, or those in leadership handle reports of harassment appropriately, try to follow the guidelines outlined below.

1. Define Your Reporting Process

Employers are legally responsible to have an effective, clear, internal reporting process for harassment, one that employees know about.  Make sure the anti-harassment policy in your employee manual outlines what employees are supposed to do if they feel they have experienced harassment.  The policy should also outline what a manager should do if an employee reports harassment to them.

2. Say “Thank You”

Reporting harassment is not easy; employees can be scared to report due to fear of retaliation, inaction, and embarrassment.  If an employee reports harassment to you, the immediate response needs to be “thank you for telling me.”

3. Set Expectations

Often an employee will say they don’t want to make a formal complaint but just to “let someone know.”  It’s important an employee knows that if harassment is disclosed, the issue needs to be documented and kept on file.  If they don’t want a formal investigation, that’s fine, but the issue should be documented. The employee also needs to have the expectation that their confidentiality will remain as protected as possible.

4. Document

It’s important to either take notes during the report, or ask the employee to make a written complaint.

5. Disclose Next Steps

Tell the employee what will happen next: HR will be notified, the incident will be investigated, and/or the issue will be addressed.

6. Escalate

Follow your internal reporting procedures and let HR know, or a higher-level supervisor, or someone else in leadership – move the report up the chain of command to handle appropriately.

7. Investigate

Each claim of harassment should be taken seriously and needs to be investigated.  Ensure the investigator is impartial and neutral – it may be beneficial to hire a 3rd party to do the investigation to ensure neutrality and impartiality is maintained.

8. Follow Up

Once the investigation has concluded and a solution determined, follow up with the employee who made the report of harassment and let them know the issue has been addressed.  They can’t know the specifics of what happens with the other employee(s) involved, but they should know that it has been handled.

Having an anti-harassment policy in your handbook might not be enough; training for managers and all employees about how to promote a harassment-free workplace is highly encouraged.  Purple Ink is happy to help and facilitates engaging, interactive training programs on many topics, including Harassment Prevention.

Catherine Schmidt
Catherine Schmidt
Catherine Schmidt is Purple Ink’s Director of Client Services and is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Catherine has a special interest in career coaching and recruiting and finds joy when she can connect the right person to the right opportunity.

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