It’s the conversation no manager wants to have. An employee has requested a meeting to make a sexual harassment report. Just remember, as uncomfortable as this may be for you, it is likely even more uncomfortable for them—it takes a lot of courage to come forward with a sexual harassment complaint. You need to do everything you can to handle this meeting calmly and professionally, starting with reviewing your company’s sexual harassment policies and alerting your human resources and legal departments.
Why do you think employees might hesitate to report inappropriate sexual conduct? There are many possible reasons. They might be worried that the harasser will make their lives more difficult; that coworkers will single them out or treat them poorly; that a supervisor or manager will dismiss their complaint or punish them in some way for bringing it up. They may worry that they will lose money (in tips or more desirable shifts) or lose their jobs entirely, or that everyone will find out and they will be ridiculed.
You as a manager can help to allay those fears by the way you act when meeting with your employee.
Here are some tips for handling a sexual harassment complaint from an employee:
· Before you meet, review your organization’s sexual harassment policies and procedures so you have the information you need to proceed confidently and so you will be able to share your company’s processes with the employee.
· Meet privately. Assure the employee that you will keep the information shared as confidential as possible. You will only share the information with those who need to know, such as the human resources manager or legal representatives. Remind the employee that as a manager, you are obligated to report the harassment now that you have become aware of it.
· Focus on actions, not people or personalities. Ask questions to learn what behaviors the employee experienced that made them feel harassed. Take notes, using concrete details—who, what, where, when, how.
· Stay professional, but model compassion and empathy. For example, “I can see that this is very upsetting for you,” “I appreciate your bringing this to my attention,” “I understand why you are reluctant to work under those conditions.” Need inspiration? Check out this video clip from “Sexual Harassment Prevention in the Restaurant Industry: Manager Edition.”
· Go over next steps. Explain how you will keep the person reporting the harassment and the alleged harasser separated while the claim is being investigated, and note that these steps are not retaliatory toward the employee, but designed to keep them safe.
· Follow up. Keep your employee in the loop about the progress of the investigation and what actions are being taken to address their concerns.
Managers play an important role in transforming their workplace culture and creating a safe and positive work environment free from sexual harassment for all employees. Your company’s own policies and procedures are the foundation of this process. Take your commitment to the next level by bringing ServSafe Workplace’s new sexual harassment prevention training for managers and employees to your organization. Visit https://www.servsafe.com/ServSafe-Workplace to learn more.