Evidently, the backbone of any workforce is resources, and salient amongst these resources are employees. For a company of any size to maximize its potential, there has to be reasonable satisfaction on the employees’ path.
However, workplace harassment has a way of impeding employees’ satisfaction and well-being, hence the need for the human resources arm of every organization to devise measures to prevent all forms of harassment in the workplace and also manage the complexities that’ll arise from this, if not properly managed.
Therefore, organizations must prioritize a safe and inclusive work environment for employees by fostering a culture of respect to implement effective policies — HR professionals are at the forefront of ensuring that every employee feels valued, protected, and empowered. In this article, we will explore the responsibilities of HR in promoting respectful environments that’ll empower employees to perform without fear or dissatisfaction.
First off, let’s have a comprehensive understanding of what harassment entails and its types that goes way beyond the popular sexual abuse.
Workplace Harassment & Types
In simple terms, workplace harassment refers to any unwelcome or offensive actions or comments directed towards an individual or people (mostly employees) in a professional setting. It involves actions that create an intimidating or offensive work atmosphere, interfering with an individual’s ability to perform their job effectively. It’s often perpetrated by superiors, coworkers, or anyone present in the workplace.
It is also important to note that workplace harassment is not limited to a single incident but can also involve repeated patterns of these actions that persist over time. Workplace harassment can include various forms, which will be discussed emphatically below.
Types Of Workplace Harassment
- Verbal Attack
This is when an employee or any individual in a workplace setting is subjected to continuous or one-off comments, including insults, derogatory comments, slurs, persistent and unhelpful criticism, belittling nicknames, sarcastic remarks and offensive jokes. This form of assault is capable of devaluation, humiliation and negatively affects one’s self-esteem.
- Sexual Harassment
Perhaps the commonest form of harassment, sexual harassment, consists of unwanted sexual advances, odd requests for sexual favours, or any other verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Not restricted to women only, this type of harassment attacks the victim’s dignity more than anything and fosters an intimidating or offensive working environment that impedes the ability to perform with confidence.
This involves discrimination of all sorts, ranging from racial, religious, gender or even age-based bias. The perpetrators of this are mostly senior colleagues who peddle unfair treatment, exclusion, or the denial of opportunities based on any of these factors. Discrimination cultivates a toxic work environment that stifles the potential of individuals who are treated as lesser beings.
Unfortunately, the growth of technology has provided another means for harassment to take a digital form. This occurs when someone uses technology-driven measures to make life unbearable for others. In a workplace setting, it may involve spreading rumours, sharing inappropriate content, or making threats through emails, social media, or other digital channels. This makes victims feel unsafe, as it violates the line between personal and professional life.
- Power Abuse
This is when someone in a position of authority exploits their power to demean, intimidate, or manipulate other professionals, mostly younger ones. It can involve excessive control, micromanagement, public humiliation, or threats of professional consequences. The fear of job insecurity may trap victims of this in a cycle of abuse, where their well-being takes a backseat to maintaining their livelihood.
The Role Of HR In Managing & Preventing These Harassments In The Workplace
- Education & Awareness
In a bid to prevent all forms of harassment in the workplace, the HR team should consider conducting regular awareness and education as regards these harassments, their various forms and the consequences of engaging in the acts. This way, there’d be eradication of ignorance and encouragement for victims to speak up and report its occurrence.
- Thorough Background Check During Hiring Process
To prevent hiring individuals with a history of harassment or other negative behaviours, the HR department must conduct a comprehensive background check during the hiring process. Organizations can proactively assess applicants and make informed decisions by implementing an effective vetting system.
- Proper Handling of Complaints
HR should also act as a central point for receiving and addressing complaints related to workplace harassment swiftly & effectively. There should be a confidential reporting mechanism to encourage employees to come forward and report incidents in case of power abuse and other form of harassment that might put one’s job security at risk.
- Support For Victims
HR should also provide support to victims and witnesses of harassment. This may include offering counselling services, reassurance of confidentiality, and protection against retaliation. Also, there should be a guarantee for employees that’ll make them feel safe and supported throughout the process.
HR’s involvement in managing and preventing workplace harassment is essential to create a respectful, inclusive, and safe workplace for all employees. These roles or responsibilities shouldn’t be overlooked, as they are vital in maintaining a healthy organizational culture.