Five things to do to create a harassment-free workplace.
As the visuals of Google employees staging a walkout stream through, we are rudely awakened to the fact that even one of the best places to work has not been able to respond to sexual harassment complaints in an appropriate manner.
In India, a deeply entrenched and traditional response to sexual harassment claims has been a quick frown at the woman who raised a voice and brought a harassment claim to the fore. But with the advent of globalization, financial independence, social platforms to voice concerns and women collectively raising their voices against social persecution, a positive outcome has been the enactment of “The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
As business owners and entrepreneurs, one of our primary jobs is to build a performing and effective organization, one that has no place for any form of harassment for any individual.
Here are some things to do if you are an entrepreneur at the helm of a company:
1. Be cued into the culture of the organization. Understand how your team members think. Open houses and informal chats are fantastic for building that. A situation or a circumstance is rarely linear and predictable. One skill that you must develop is how to “keep an ear to the ground”. This one skill will certainly help in not just being “connected” but also in being prepared to handle situations which otherwise may come as a rude shock.
2. Have People champions who can easily give you a heads-up if they hear about some disgruntlement.
3. Ensuring a harassment-free workplace is HARD WORK. It will not happen unless the intent is made KNOWN.
a. Conduct training / introductory sessions at the time of induction.
b. Show your intent as a head/organization, who takes harassment charges very seriously.
c. Display across the company that harassment is strictly punishable
d. Make contact numbers and email id’s to lodge complaints, easily accessible.
e. Share information about the “Internal Complaints Committee” and the process of lodging a complaint, periodically.
4. Have a short awareness session to ensure that each team member knows what comes under harassment and different types of harassment. Maintain records of attendance. This will save time during an inquiry (if an incident does happen) if the offender says “I didn’t know”.
5. Hold a special session for women in the company to assure them that they needn’t worry about anything. If they have been victims, it is important to bring the offender in the open.
Processes help in strengthening the implementation of policies and which, if honored and executed well, will strengthen the culture of any organization.
The law, POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) committees and #MeToo movements cannot guarantee harassment-free, workplaces. There’ll always be miscreants who will wish to test the boundaries set by the legalities and the patience and grit of a woman. On the other hand, there will be innocent men who will be caught in the crossfire by women with devious intentions who conveniently think that harassment charges are the easiest way to dress up as the victim. Our country is at the crux of making some landmark judgments legally. Now the onus is on each citizen to make these judgments easily implementable so that our society becomes inclusive and harassment-free.