Harassment reporting is by nature, a sensitive issue. When an incident of harassment in the workplace occurs, things can get tense, fast.
For many of us, we don’t just walk into work each day, sit down, do our work and go home. We develop relationships with our coworkers: accountants, salespeople, administrators, and yes – human resources managers.
So when an employee, let’s call her Sarah, feels that she’s been harassed at work, she might be less inclined to report the harassment because she knows that the HR manager is friends with the accused. What does Sarah do now? Well, for a few weeks she puts on a brave face. Sarah continues to show up to work despite the fact that she is uncomfortable and watches the clock constantly; waiting for 5:00PM and a moment of relief.
After a couple of weeks pass, Sarah begins to miss a few days of work here and there. A once exemplary employee and engaged team member has slowly turned into a shell of herself. Her absenteeism continues and her work suffers.
Sarah still hasn’t come forward about her harassment incident and management is becoming concerned with her performance. They want to help get her out of her slump, but don’t know where to start, or why she isn’t her normal self.
Meanwhile, Sarah wants to come forward. She wants to be heard. But Sarah needs to be heard by the right person. Her personal friendship with the HR manager and close ties around the office prevent her from being comfortable enough to bring her harassment incident to light.
Not only is the HR manager a friend of Sarah’s alleged harasser, but she isn’t entirely confident that the HR manager is even qualified to deal with the sensitive nature of her incident. He’s great at making hiring decisions, but Sarah knows this will be a difficult conversation for her. How will he react if she gets upset or emotional?
Just like the other 26.6% of harassment victims, Sarah begins to feel a weaker sense of belonging at her organization and within 12 months she will be actively seeking a new job elsewhere. The organization won’t know why one of their best employees became disengaged and eventually left.
Organizations (who have good intentions of providing an outlet for employees) often forget one key element despite their best efforts: the delicate human nature of the people involved.
Sarah’s organization may want to consider a third party partner for their harassment reporting policy. If employees know that they can report incidents of harassment in a non-threatening and confidential way, they will be more likely to speak up and have their issue resolved.
Every Sarah wants to know that they are talking to a professional that will be sensitive to the delicate nature of their issue. They want someone who will have an appropriate, measured response to their concern and a due course of action to resolve the conflict.
Start by choosing a partner with trained professionals in Incident Command Systems. It’s important that the person reporting incidents of harassment feels heard and that there is a set process for their issue.
22.4% of women who reported an incident of harassment last year in Canada said they are planning to leave their current job within 12 months. Avoidable turnover like this results in unnecessary costs for organizations each year, not to mention the loss of productivity. What is even more alarming is that as an estimated 75% of harassment incidents go unreported altogether.
Organizations are starting to see that they can do better. They’re losing good people as a result of flawed internal reporting systems. Not only are employees afraid to report harassment, but a quarter of them are leaving within a year; and it’s costing businesses time, money and employee morale.
In Newfoundland, where our organization is located we’re seeing first-hand the challenges that organizations face with harassment reporting. As of January 1st, all organizations will need to utilize a third party reporting line. Newfoundland and Labrador businesses should learn more about updated OHS regulations that will impact them sooner than later.
Here at Telelink, we help organizations provide healthier workplaces. Learn more about third party harassment line reporting today.