Workplace harassment can happen in any workplace and may sometimes go unnoticed. A lot of individuals know how to subtly discriminate and not get caught by attributing their decisions to different factors. However, if a company is proactive, it can have controls in place to prevent these issues from occurring.

5 Ways to prevent harassment and discrimination among staff

In this blog we’ll look at five ways to help prevent harassment and discrimination among staff before they take their toll.

1. It’s okay to say something

If people are too scared to say something, then it probably won’t get said. Start by reassuring staff that it is okay to report any incident of harassment or discrimination. Make sure everyone in the organisation has access to a newsletter (or other notification) that poor behaviour won’t be tolerated and should be communicated.

If most people know they are likely to be “dobbed in” then the potential for sinister conduct is reduced. It’s also good practice for employers to encourage staff to identify issues before a complaint is made to prevent unnecessary escalation.

2. Do have a policy

Don’t think matters will always resolve themselves, or should be handled in an ad-hoc way by the individual presented with a complaint. Have a consistent policy for dealing with harassment or discrimination and make sure the policy template is recognised, and can be applied by, all the key stakeholders.

The policy doesn’t need to be overly bureaucratic but it should clearly define the severity of different incidents and an appropriate course of action to resolve them. A template may help when developing drafts of the policy, as it provides a base and makes things easier.

A policy which facilitates managers who listen and engage with employees to resolve potential disputes makes it easier for everyone if there is a problem. And it makes it easier for staff to raise a question in proper way that will result in an answer.

3. Keep an eye out

Are certain staff clearly not themselves? Keep a look out for anecdotal changes in behaviour, participation and performance. Such changes could mean harassment or some other incident which has led to dissatisfaction. A change in emotion state is one of the best ways to discern if something is wrong that no app can replicate.

Employers should keep an eye out for any sign of employee distress or dissatisfaction, and you can conduct management training to notice the signs of unhappy employees.

Casually observing staff while they are working should give you enough clues to any dissatisfaction or changes in morale.

In addition, keep an eye on who is leaving the organisation and why. A high turnover in one department or under one manager might indicate a toxic culture.

4. Monitor the metrics

In addition to point three above, use automated metrics where it is practical to do so. Things like anomalies in sick leave, measurable output and email volumes can be flagged for follow up by HR to see if there are any concerns.

Identifying trends will indicate both good and poor performance and a feel for what is likely to change in the event of harassment or discrimination.

This tactic can be applied across the company and should reduce the need to “look over the shoulder” of staff to determine if there is a problem.

5. Fine tune your processes

When new trends that appear in the workplace – for example, a new social network – the processes and policies for dealing with inappropriate behaviour should be updated accordingly. Using a new social network to harass co-workers is not acceptable, even if it wasn’t part of an exciting policy.

Ensure your policies and processes are flexible and can be consulted on, and updated, by all stakeholders.

Updating your processes is important as different workplaces have different forms of harassment and discrimination. A workplace where there is potential for dishonest activity (handling money, privileged access, etc) might be very different to one that does not.

At Polonious, our application helps organisations develop better policies and processes, and improves the challenging task of dispute resolution.

By stamping out the first sign of a toxic culture staff will be happier and stick around for the long run and the company’s ethical standards will be highly regarded.