More than being the right thing to do, bringing a sexual harassment concern forward is an act of courage that should be honored and not disparaged or diminished. If you have been pondering whether to come forward about inappropriate workplace behavior that is impacting you or others, the time is ripe. There is a groundswell of support fueled by #MeToo and other proactive workplace initiatives to ensure that your voice not only matters but may serve as the catalyst for change.
Not sure whether to speak up? Afraid of what might happen? Speaking up and bringing action is critical to not only stopping inappropriate workplace behavior but also helping to send the message that it won’t be tolerated or ignored by you and helps to engage your organization in solving the problem. Your and your organization are stakeholders in the change that needs to take place to make the workplace one that is safe and inclusive, and most certainly free of harassment.
How to voice your concern
Tucker Miller, ELI Vice President of Client Consulting, was featured on Profit Boss® Radio where she shared her expertise on the topic of sexual harassment. Here she offered some best practices around voicing your concern, exactly what to say, and what you can expect when you do:
1. Report the Incident
In the workplace, sexual harassment bubbles up in many different forms. Sometimes it’s an overt action or threat, and other times it’s indirect and may be hard to describe, but leaves you or others feeling in some way marginalized. If you are feeling in any way that you’re a target or victim of unwanted or inappropriate behavior, consider pointing out to the offenders. Let them know when they’ve crossed a line.
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As an added measure, or an alternative, consider putting your company on notice. Your organization needs to hear from you in order to know what and how to address situations that may be subjecting you to harm. Suffering in silence may be subjecting you and others – even the offending person – to greater harm by not identifying its effect on you. Remember that you have alternatives: there are other places to go if you don’t feel comfortable addressing people directly. For example, you might disclose or report to a manager, a Human Resources representative, or through a hotline.
2. Know Your Rights; Do Your Homework
Many forms of unacceptable behavior are addressed in a company’s workplace policies or code of conduct. Take a look at your policies. Educate yourself before you discuss the details so you can refer back to the policy. It will demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. Emphasize how you bringing your concern forward is intended to solve the problem not only for you but the entire organization. Take confidence in knowing that you are acting in your best interest AND the organization’s. You are offering an opportunity for all to make things better.
3. Stay Objective
When you bring your concern forward, focus on the behavior that is problematic and how it is offensive. Objectively as possible, describe the behavior. Start with, “I’m here reporting this concern because I want the behavior to stop, and I want to partner with you in addressing this problem.” Avoid focusing on your emotions or what those that offended you should have known or done.
4. Proactively Address Retaliation
Understand there are prohibitions on retaliation and that you cannot be retaliated against for bringing forward a good faith concern of wrong-doing. In acknowledging that, you might say something like, “ I trust our policies when they assure that I am not to be retaliated against; I am willing to trust that that’s true and I’m asking for your support in making sure that doesn’t happen.” Be prepared then to provide the details of your concern.
Be willing to cooperate with an investigation into your concerns through the process the company has in place. Even though you believe you were wronged, it’s important to work with your company to try and resolve the issue.
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Stopping Harassment is Everyone’s Responsibility
The responsibility to speak up about unfairness, inequity, and offensive behavior is not limited to victims of that behavior. All of us have a responsibility to flag behavior that is unacceptable or offensive. If you are aware of a situation, have seen it, heard about it, or otherwise know about it, it’s critical that you voice your concern. As an objective witness to the behavior, you may have even more credibility that the people directly involved with a particular situation. Importantly, walking away will not solve the problem and may, in fact, make it worse. Be a part of the solution. You may be the hero everyone’s been waiting for.