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Why sexual harassment still thrives in many work environments

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HC Online | 19 Mar 2012, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Alison Page reviews the implications of increasing onus of responsibility on the employer to keep the workplace safe from sexual harassment.
  • Bernie Althofer | 20 Mar 2012, 09:43 AM Agree 0
    Finding that you are the feature story about any form of counterproductive workplace behaviours can be confronting. It can be even more confronting if you find yourself having to respond in the negative because you thought you had all bases covered.

    Court, Commission and Tribunal decisions and findings are continuing to have an impact on how organisations should be responding to counterproductive workplace behaviours. Unfortunately, it appears that some organisations may not have dedicated sufficient resources to maintain currency of knowledge of these decisions or findings. In addition, as forums are used to discuss the decisions and findings, a wealth of knowledge is being created that could provide organisations with an insight into how social commentators view these practices.

    One could say that it has all been said before, but if that is the case, why is that some individuals still find it 'appropriate' to cross the line and participate in the below the line behaviours? As Courts, Commissions and Tribunal make findings against organisations, it adds to the argument for ongoing learning and development at all levels.

    It also increases that argument that organisations and individuals need to conduct assessments, audits or reviews to find out what improvement opportunities exist. It seems that in this day and age, that officers and workers (from the health and safety area) should not be saying "Noboby told me". Line managers and supervisors have to be at the fore front of addressing all forms of counterproductive workplace behaviours, and if they don't have the knowledge or skills in this area, they need to be provided with the appropriate learning and development. Organisations can't keep expecting the HR Department to solve or address all the day to problems.

    Officers from organisations should at least receive regular briefings about the implications of Court, Commission or Tribunal decisions and/or findings.

    It may also be advantageous to test organisations systems and processes by conducting 'mock' hearings. Surely, it is better to be embarassed 'inhouse' rather than in a Court, Commission or Tribunal where invariably the findings become public and individual or organisational reputations come under more intense scrutiny.
  • Franca Sala Tenna | 22 Mar 2012, 05:14 PM Agree 0
    I run training regularly to educate employees across different companies about what sexual harassment is and is not. It is very common in these workshops to find that the participants just didn't know what was unlawful. this is especially true in relation to sexual harassment when humour is involved. We often think that something funny negates it being unlawful but it doesn't- and this can be the problem for some people.
  • Bernie Althofer | 23 Mar 2012, 11:21 AM Agree 0
    It is excellent to use external providers who may be able to 'challenge' internal systems and processes when it comes to any form of counterproductive workplace behaviours. There is little doubt that workplace culture can play a significant part in maintaining understanding about what constitutes offensive behaviour. Over the years, various Courts, Commissions and Tribunal have made decisions that may or may not have intergrated with organisational policy. It also seems that in some areas there has been a decline in what people classify as 'normal' e.g. use of obscenities. However, unless organisations have regular and ongoing training that addresses an increasingly diverse understanding about all forms of counterproductive behaviours, individuals will from time to time, either say or do something intentionally or unintentionally without realising the conduct may be offensive. It is hard to blame conduct on 'every one does it' and expect that this will be supported in an allegation. The other issue that is important i this discussion relates to the blurring of boundaries regarding what is a workplace. This has implications for those who work from home, or those who are required to meet clients and even co-workers at various functions, events, or work supported and approved gatherings. I would simply say that the rules are constantly changing so it is critically important to know what the rules are today and they will impact on you tomorrow.
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