Preventing Harassment in the workplace is a virtually impossible task for managers to achieve. I have no doubt they can foster an harassment reduced environment, or educate employees on the ills of harassment, but to actually prevent harassment when dealing with free will human beings is setting the bar too high.
For someone who has trained managers, been a manager, and preached the gospel of having harassment free workplaces, it suddenly occurred to me that we need to set more realistic expectations for managers when training this topic. To date we have left them with the impression that they can actually keep harassment from occurring which is a serious falsehood.
Managers can however, create open and supportive working environments where employees respect each other and better treatment between people is the norm. The can also set the tone for intolerance of workplace harassment, and an open door to learn when harassment occurs.
This week I learned of a work group that is into gossiping about each other. Not everyone is a participant, but the cruel and out right hurtful lies being spread cut to the core of everyone this group targets. As one employee put it with tears pouring down her face, “they are just mean people and I don’t want to work with them anymore.”
In that single statement is the real side effect of allowing workplace harassment to go unchecked. Good people leave, and often without telling anyone why. This leaves an opening to be replaced by a future victim if things don’t change.
Management, even the very on top and in touch kind cannot possible know everything that is going on around them. They need people to rat out the people who are acting inappropriate. If you are the direct victim you are expected to report harassment, yet too many other employees that know what is going on are quick to dismiss bad behavior when it doesn’t directly affect them.
Preventing workplace harassment means that it will never happen. However, if enough people get involved in removing harassing individuals, then a company, division or department can come pretty close to reducing it to the lowest levels possible.