Sexual harassment at work

What’s accepted sexual harassment in your workplace?

The answer should be: no form of sexual harassment is tolerated

What actually happens may be a different story. It’s not only tolerated, it is accepted, ignored, dismissed or swept under the rug. 

Sexual harassment and sexual assault have been in the media recently – highlighting some of the worst actions in Australian workplaces.

Why do targets go to the media? It’s not for fun, it’s not for fame. 

It’s because THEY JUST WANT THE BEHAVIOUR TO STOP, and internal systems and processes have failed them.

Employers and managers are not meeting their obligation to provide a safe working environment.

Woman putting her hand up to stop

What’s your company policy?

Some organisations address bullying and harassment in a code of ethics and conduct. They may say something along the lines of…

Employees must treat all colleagues, customers and stakeholders fairly, and with dignity and respect. has zero tolerance for bullying, harassment, discrimination and inappropriate or unreasonable workplace conduct. 

Even if you don’t have a written policy, you still have an unspoken policy – the rules and behaviours that are known to everyone. You know, ‘the way things are around here’.

What’s the real policy?

What’s accepted, ignored, tolerated or conducted in your organisation IS THE REAL POLICY.

So while some policies state they have zero tolerance for inappropriate and illegal workplace behaviours, we see it occuring time and time again. 

If it’s not a zero tolerance policy, what percentage does your organisation accept?

What is acceptable sexual harassment in your workplace?

  • Are sexual jokes and comments acceptable? What if a lot of people think it’s funny and only a few ‘sensitive’ people are offended? 
  • Is a certain person allowed to sexually harass others because they ‘didn’t mean it’ or you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Or maybe they’re the boss, or they bring in a lot of business so they can do whatever they want. 
  • Do you accept sexual harassment when it comes from clients because profit is the priority? 
  • Do you accept invasion of personal space at offsite events or sexual jokes when there’s alcohol involved? What about touching? Do you allow clients to brush up against staff members? What if it leads to sexual assault? 
  • Does your organisation blame the victim citing their actions, instead of issuing consequences to the perpetrator for conducting the illegal behaviour?

WHERE DO YOU DRAW THE LINE?

There’s a risk that if you allow one thing, you make room for everything.

Why does it take major incidents, whistleblowers or movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp to cause people to take action? I’ve seen this in work health and safety too often, why does it take someone to get seriously or fatally injured at work for systems, processes and actions to be created, implemented or changed?

Having the right policies, processes and systems in place protects everyone involved – but they need to be actionable, easy to understand, and training and development needs to be regular. Issues need to be dealt with swiftly, appropriately and transparently – staff need to know that they are in a safe environment and any wrongdoing will be actioned and not swept under the rug.

A lot of resources tell you WHAT you need to do.  

But there are some gaps in the HOW. 

HOW do you stop it?

If it was easy, people would be doing it right now. We wouldn’t have to wait for whistleblowers or societal movements like #TimesUp or #MeToo. Targets, witnesses, HR, management and employers would just stop it.

I can provide the tools to do just that.  

Eliminate Sexual Harassment at Work – Webinar

I currently have an on demand webinar for the legal profession where I provide tools and strategies for:

  • Targets to know what to do and take back their right to a safe workplace
  • Witnesses to become confident allies
  • Managers to know what to do if it happens in their team
  • Employers to meet their obligations and manage the risks

I have a genuine respect for the legal profession and developed this webinar to support the people who support us. You often deal with some of the toughest cases in our society and I believe your role can be difficult enough at times. So to have to potentially deal with workplace hazards like bullying and harassment on top of that, compounds an already stressful role. 

The webinar offers 1.5 CPD units and I also provide a number of free resources across ethics and professional responsibility, practice management and business skills, and professional skills for another 8 CPD units to help meet your requirements for the year.

If you’re from another industry and are interested in the tools or training, get in touch for a confidential chat.

About Nicole

I make difficult communications easy and bring light to the dark sides of work.

I have over 17 years in communications and over a decade in the work health and safety and workers compensation industry including working for both NSW safety regulators. I’m looking at these issues from a range of different perspectives, including communications, media, workers compensation and work health and safety. 

I partner with courageous companies to identify and bring light to the shadows.

I provide strategies, tools, training and support for organisations to manage the risk and eliminate bullying and harassment in the workplace.

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