By Olivia Moore
Many of us have had to deal with unwelcome workplace situations at some point in our lives. There is a slew of things that can contribute to making a work environment uncomfortable. Unfortunately, some of these factors include serious offences that can drive both employers and employees to severe levels of discomfort and feeling threatened while at work.
By now, we are all familiar with the #MeToo movement. The powerful social-media campaign went viral late last year in the wake of multiple sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein, and similar revelations against other high-profile personalities that quickly followed, were the tipping point in exposing the magnitude and prevalence of sexual harassment throughout society. In response, #MeToo has been the long-overdue catalyst in increasing public awareness and opening discussions pertaining to sexual misconduct, especially in the workplace.
Start the conversation
My employer, aNd Logistix, took immediate action in addressing the issue during one of our morning team meetings. We’d all seen the headlines, speaking among ourselves about them, so it was a huge relief to have company leadership dedicate the floor to an open discussion concerning sexual harassment. It assured everyone that our office is a safe environment. That these issues can be brought to the attention of management. And, that management would protect us and not stand for any semblance of violation.
The conversation was enlightening. We reviewed details of our company’s sexual harassment and professional conduct policies and talked about the cases that were making headlines. A few of our older, more experienced staff members recalled situations they had to put up with in decades past that certainly wouldn’t be tolerated today.
The result was the immediate understanding and reinforcement that everyone — staff, clients, event attendees, industry partners and all other parties — have the right to feel comfortable and respected at work (and, of course, in life). There is zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour at aNd. Having this straightforward discussion reinforced the bond among staff as we all agreed and understood why establishing a zero-tolerance policy is such an essential part of ensuring a safe office environment.
Spotlight policies for better understanding
Most companies have policies condemning sexual harassment and assault, but the details often don’t get much play beyond the employee orientation packages they’re included in. Our company’s leaders took the right course of action by highlighting them in a way that initiates a better depth of engagement, importance and awareness. I found it beneficial to have an open discussion concerning the issue as it helps coworkers to better understand one another. It also reduces the negative stigma surrounding the conversation in addition to encouraging those who have been victims of this kind of treatment to come forward, or know that their workplace puts proactive measures in place in hopes that this never happens on their watch.
Everyone wants to feel safe and comfortable within their workplace. Ensuring a positive atmosphere requires issues such as sexual assault and harassment to be openly addressed so that everybody sharing the workplace knows that their voice will be heard. Sexual harassment and assault are extremely serious offences that can have devastating impacts not only on the victim’s life, but also on a company’s integrity. It is our responsibility to ensure that preventative steps are taken to condemn improper behaviour and safeguard our workplace, and industry, as a safe, enjoyable space for everyone to share.
Below are links that help define sexual assault and harassment, in addition to information on the steps that can be taken to prevent the issue and how to handle the situation if it does occur: