Harassment should have no place in your organization. But it probably does.
One study found that more than one-third of Americans feel they’ve been harassed at work because of their gender/sex, race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or age.
Rather than taking a reactive approach to incidents in your company, take steps to prevent harassment with ethics instead. Integrate these ideas from some of 2021’s World’s Most Ethical Companies into your internal policies and procedures to show you’re serious about eradicating harassment and bullying.
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Share Examples of What Not to Do
Not every employee accused of harassment has malicious intent. They might not even know that their behavior could be seen as harassment by others. To prevent incidents, include specific examples of what not to do in your code of conduct.
Starbucks Coffee Company’s Standards of Business Conduct tells employees that workplaces should be safe for everyone, then lists some common harassing behaviors to avoid:
“All partners are entitled to work in an environment that is free of harassment, bullying and discrimination. Harassment, bullying and discrimination take many forms, including:
- Unwelcome remarks, gestures or physical contact
- The display or circulation of offensive, derogatory or sexually explicit pictures or other materials, including by email and on the Internet
- Offensive or derogatory jokes or comments (explicit or by innuendo)
- Verbal or physical abuse or threats”
If nobody brings a harassment issue to your attention, the behavior could go on for months and escalate from a small annoyance to a major problem.
However, victims might be scared to come forward for fear of retaliation or that nothing will be done. Witnesses might not want to get involved.
Ethical companies encourage employees to speak up when they see or experience harassment and offer multiple reporting avenues to do so. In the Kellogg Company’s Global Code of Ethics, employees can learn their reporting options (e.g. HR system, Office of Ethics and Compliance, legal department), with contact information and instructions for each one.
In addition, Kellogg’s emphasizes that they “take harassment claims seriously and will investigate them,” so employees know that their concerns won’t fall on deaf ears.
Include Ethics in Your Core Values
One of the easiest ways to prevent harassment with ethics is to create an ethical workplace culture. When fair, kind treatment of coworkers is part of the job, employees will see that harassing behavior has no place in your organization.
Insurance company Unum Group achieves this by incorporating ethical behavior into the company’s core values. “We are guided by six key We Are Unum principles: a caring spirit, an appetite for smart risk, a willingness to own it, an appreciation for differences, a passion for achieving results and an unwavering customer focus,” according to the “Our Culture” section of the company’s website.
Including ethical standards in the fabric of your company culture makes victims feel safe while at the same time telling potential harassers that unsavory behavior won’t be tolerated.
Do you know how to spot the 11 most common types of workplace harassment? Download our free cheat sheet to learn the signs so you can take action before a situation escalates.
Make Employees Take Responsibility
While it’s important to guide employees’ workplace behavior with your internal policies, they aren’t toddlers. HR can only take your company’s ethical standards so far. Employees have to bear some of the burden, too, by controlling their own behavior and calling out bad actors.
Hasbro’s commitment to a harassment-free workplace in their Code of Conduct is short and simple, but puts the power into employee’s hands:
“All of us work best when we feel safe. For this reason, we do not tolerate any form of abuse or harassment. This includes actions that are offensive, intimidating, or discriminatory as well as any form of sexual harassment. Our responsibilities to each other include the following:
- Help create a work environment free of unlawful harassment.
- Do not stand by and watch or encourage unlawful harassment.
- Understand that inappropriate comments of a sexual nature or any other sexually offensive behavior will not be tolerated.
- Remember: unlawful harassment does not have to occur in the workplace or involve a Hasbro employee to violate our values or the law.”
The World’s Most Ethical Companies prevent harassment with ethics and you can, too. By making just a few small changes to your policies and culture, you can show employees that you have zero tolerance for harassment, bullying and discrimination.
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