Why a sexual harassment policy for your business is not enough

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Sexual harassment is a serious workplace issue, but simply establishing policies is not enough

When as much as one in every five women is sexually harassed at work, as a startup, you have to take it seriously from day one.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue. From Bangladesh to China and beyond, it kills productivity, loyalty, and trust, and has been found to cause stress, sleep disorders, low self-esteem, and depression. You cannot expect a healthy workplace environment unless you deal effectively with sexual harassment.

Also Read: Sorry, but this is why we can never solve gender issues in tech

A sexual harassment policy isn’t enough

While most businesses assume that having a sexual harassment policy is enough and that it will help dealing with problems, it is not adequate.

Research shows that a sexual harassment policy does more harm than good. Researchers at the University of Missouri conducted in-depth interviews to assess the impact of a rigorous sexual harassment policy and found that it actually creates a culture of fear which leads to low productivity and other counterproductive work behaviours that are the outcomes of sexual harassment.

In another world, having a policy only saves you, as a business entity, from legal liabilities but doesn’t do any good for the employees who are being harassed.

Having a sexual harassment policy and promoting a culture of respect is good but it isn’t enough.

How to deal with sexual harassment

So what you should do to deal with it?

Go a step further, or maybe a few steps further.

Once you’ve created a strict policy for sexual harassment, train employees and supervisors, and blend it with your organization’s culture. Take strict action as soon as a complaint is filed. Try to settle the case in the organization.

Also Read: Uber VP Amit Singhal resigns over sexual harassment claims; expect more heads to roll as brand battles to survive

Training employees through documentaries and videos are themselves another challenge, and it is not easy to change minds.

A friendly social change model for sexual harassment might help. The toolkit developed by Sunhera Cariappa is quite innovative in the sense that it uses design thinking for solving sexual harassment issues in both large and small organizations.

Image from http://www.theultimatetoolkit.co/

Such an innovative DIY approach helps in altering the organization culture and workplace environment that leads to one becoming a NO sexual harassment organization.

Anything that alters the culture of your business is strongly recommended but not without a sexual harassment policy. You should have a policy but if you stop there, productivity might drop and employee turnover might skyrocket in just a few years.

Let’s make your startup harassment-free by all means, and stop over-valuing the importance of a sexual harassment policy.

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