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HR warned of ‘contrapower’ sexual harassment

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HC Online | 04 Jul 2016, 09:54 AM Agree 0
When it comes to sexual harassment policies, your managers need as much protection as the workers, according to new research.
  • Bernie Althofer | 05 Jul 2016, 07:06 AM Agree 0
    There has been considerable discussion over the years about the links between abuse of power and authority and workplace bullying and harassment. Workplace presentations focussed on top down bullying and harassment and over a period of time, this changed to ensure that managers and workers at all levels understood that bullying and harassment was not only a 'top down' driven issue, but that it could also be driven from 'bottom up' or across (between co-workers). In addition, presentations also focused on creating an understanding that bullying and harassment could involve male to female relationships, male to male relationships, female to male relationships, and female to male relationships, irrespective of their postion or status within an organisation.

    Changing long standing beliefs in some organisations can be difficult. However, it is important that learning and development programs focusing on change management and behaviour, generate an understanding that no-one is immune from an abuse of power or misuse of authority. Sexual harassment, like bullying can involve anyone at any time. Holding a belief that sexual harassment or bullying only occurs where a specific set of factors are involved, limits the ability of an organisation to create meaningful change.

    Managers and workers at all levels need protection from unfounded complaints, just as much as they need to be involved in the prevention and detection aspect. If organisations focus on the reactive approach and only address complaints after they are made, there may continue to be an undercurrent of subversive behaviours being used to undermine managers and co-workers. In some cases, these subversive behaviours will create long term psychological damage to all parties.

    It is important in learning and development programs to provide participants with an opportunity to discuss the various nuances involved so that all parties can understand what sexual harassment, bullying etc actually looks like in a contemporary workplace. Power and authority exists across all organisations, and whilst many may use these judiciously, those who abuse power and authority create untold angst for others.

    Whilst is remains important to educate managers and workers on the processes involved in the prevention, detection, reporting and resolution of counterproductive behaviours such as sexual harassment and bullying, it is just as important to discuss power and auuthority and what these actually mean, or even look like in a workplace.
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