Create a Harassment-Free Work Environment

Women communicators hear, see, and push a lot of content. We have varying agendas and goals and are all trying to do our best work every day. Often, that quality work product is sacrificed for the sake of time, external factors, or a decision from a superior. In some instances, that quality work product takes a hit due to something more pervasive and insidious: workplace bullying, harassment, and retaliation.

The #metoo movement has sparked engaging conversation and empowered countless women to step up and share their experiences. It has also shed a light on a pervasive problem: Men in powerful positions abusing and disrespecting their subordinates. If we want end this problem and create a strong culture of inclusion and equality, we have to move forward and create the work environment we want.

Harassment at work, usually sexual in nature, is something most women in the workplace have learned to live with. I am here to tell you that it is time to change that way of thinking. Start thinking differently to move your office culture toward a safe, harassment-free work environment:

1.      Recognize what’s really going on. Inappropriate jokes, passing around inappropriate memes or pictures on email and non-verbal cues may seem innocent, however, they are not. Don’t simply brush it off. Young women in the workforce often think they must participate or go along to get ahead and we need to reassure them that this behavior is not normal or appropriate at work.

2.      Do some discrete research. Are you being singled out and harassed and are co-workers experiencing similar situations? In both situations, your HR Department or manager needs to know what’s going on. You can always start by going to a trusted HR professional with questions you may have. If you have no trusted HR pro in your office, get creative and as a last step, consult legal counsel.

3.      Stand up for yourself a little more. Standing up for a co-worker is also OK. It is OK to protest, disagree, and tell another person that what they are doing, saying and perpetuating is not right. Most women simply let it lie and we cannot continue to do that. Document your situations – this will help you in the future in a number of ways. Be sure to take note of any witnesses, dates, times and what was said or done.

In this day and age, we need to demand better work environments. Environments where we are supported and empowered to work to our full potential, free from inappropriate jokes, comments, unwelcome physical encounters and retribution when we don’t reciprocate. Everyone should feel comfortable broaching this subject with co-workers and superiors. This is the starting point to ending harassment at work.

NOTE: This post first appeared in the Women in Communications Trending Blog on May 10th, 2018. The post can be viewed here.

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