Workplace harassment has become one of the major concerns and workplace risk to look out for HR managers these days. With organizations dealing with various cases of workplace harassment every day, it is becoming one of the most sensitive areas of effective workplace management. Recognizing the serious impact of such activities in the workplace and the performance of an individual, Real Solutions Pvt. Ltd. brought this topic for discussion on its 49th HR Kurakani.
The discussion of the 49th HR Kurakani organized at Real Solutions Pvt. Ltd. office, revolved around the topic “Workplace Harassment, its Types and Measures to Control it”. In a general sense, workplace harassment can be defined as the belittling or threatening behavior directed at an individual worker or a group of workers in an organization. HR Personnel from 13 different organizations in Nepal provided their views on what workplace harassment meant in the context of Nepal, its types and how it can be controlled.
Workplace harassment in the context of Nepalese companies is most widely found in the form of unwanted behavior, negative influence,offensive behavior and discrimination. An employee, constantly being disturbed by another employee is also taken as a form of workplace harassment. Similarly, gender biases are another major reason for workplace harassment. But, some professionals argue that the perception of harassment also depends on how you interpret certain behavior. For example, some people can take a particular behavior as harassment while others may not. So, the sense of harassment sometimes depends on how you interpret certain behaviors.
While these are some of the most common sources of harassment in the workplace, HR managers are facing a different type of workplace harassment apart from these. One of them may be in the form of “Policy Harassment”. Policy harassment is seen mostly in cases of multinational companies and INGOs. Most of these companies, having headquarters in a foreign company, operate as per the rule, regulations and policies formed in their home country. In this case, the policies implemented does not match with the work culture of the host company. This results in the inability to adjust with the policies, and thus creates a sense of mental harassment among the employees.
Social Media nowadays has also been contributing to the increase in workplace harassment. Subordinates are seen to be harassing their co-workers on the basis of their activity on Social Media Sites. Some of the types of harassment resulting from Social Media Sites may be posting unwanted comments or passing comments during office hours, etc. Moreover, the size of the organization also has a key role in determining the level of harassment in an organization. The larger the organization, the greater will be the chances of harassment.
Having said that, later the discussion was directed towards the impact of these workplace harassments. The impact of workplace harassment can be physical and mental stress. However, both the impacts result in the deteriorating work performance and emotional state of the victim. Sometimes, it is also seen that the victims themselves are not able to identify that they are being harassed. This even worsens the case. The victims suffer continuously without identifying the matter.
Taking these scenarios into consideration, what actions can HR take to minimize workplace harassment in the organization? One of the most effective ways could be to formulate Workplace Harassment Policies that clearly define the activities that can be seen as a form of harassment. A strong policy if implemented well can prevent harassment to a greater extent. The discussion also brought into light the role of HR in identifying and managing it in the workplace.
The communication of harassment related issues can be handled effectively in an organization only if there is a proper mechanism for grievance handling. Since grievance handling is carried out by the HR department, HR should be easily accessible to every employee in the organization. The relationship between the HR and the rest of the organization should be such that they can share everything with the HR in the organization. Then only, there will be an environment for trust and open communication. Apart from the role of HR, there are also various other factors that can monitor and control harassment in the workplace.
The first & foremost factor is to set norms, form policies and introduce the culture of the organization to the existing as well as new employees in the organization. These policies should be tailored according to the culture of the country where the organization is located.
There should be a sense of equality among the employees in the workplace.
The senior management should, on an occasional basis, provide guidance & counselling to his/her subordinates.
The organization should determine and outline the types of harassment and develop a method for notifying those harassment.
HR should be neutral, supportive, trustworthy and friendly enough so that the employees can feel free to share their problems. For this, the HR should possess “People Management Skills” and demonstrate 60-80% soft skills.
HR should implement a system based approach rather than an individual approach to solve any issues in the organization.
The provision of Exit Interviews can play a major role in determining the causes and types of workplace harassment taking place in the organization.
Workplace harassment, physical or psychological, should be taken care of in an organization. Else, the effect of these harassments will ultimately be seen in the performance of the employee. Developing a proper method for notifying the harassment can largely contribute to raising awareness about these issues. Thus, organizations should focus on reducing the issues related to workplace harassment with the use of system based approach. This will definitely help in fostering an effective work environment in the organization.