Risk and liability related to workplace harassment claims generally are the result of poor workplace communication practices.  Failure to adopt an effective culture with modeled behaviors from leadership in how to communicate respectively and professionally can expose your business to liability.  Not to mention negative morale, lack of trust, and much more.

Three major triggers for harassment include (1) Poor Communication; (2) Lack of Respect and trust; and (3) Lack of Accountability.

There is a strategy you as a business leader or owner can implement to mitigate and prevent these types of situations in the workplace.  While it is true an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, in my opinion only consistent, sustainable actions and behaviors modeled appropriately and demonstrated across an entire organization can be an effective preventative strategy.

Here are ten points to consider when creating a workplace communication strategy to align with your culture and performance expectations to achieve the desired goal or risk mitigation.

  1. Effective Communication – Define what this is for the workplace.  Model and demonstrate it in all meetings and interactions with peers and staff.
  2. Two Way Communication – Ensure you create an open and transparent environment where employees are both comfortable sharing information with management / leadership and they trust they will not be retaliated against for doing so.
  3. Leadership Involvement – Any initiative where leadership does not take an active part on presenting expectations, modeling the behavior, and ensure they live up to what the dictate to others is critical for success.
  4. Empower Communication – Provide your workforce with the necessary tools, resources, and support to share their concerns, their ideas, and their feedback with their peers and management in a safe and inclusive environment.
  5. Building of Trust – This takes time, is done through engagement, performance management, training, and respectful communication.  When efforts by people leaders are not seen as genuine, this often fails.
  6. Trust enhances professional respect – When successful at genuine communication that promulgates trust both in people leaders and in staff, professional respect is enhanced and a more productive, innovative and creative workforce is often the result.
  7. Respect and Dignity in the workplace improves inclusion – Inclusion is not about protected characteristics and metrics and social equity.  Inclusion is about diversity of thought and ensuring every member of your organization is provided the tools, resources, and support to share their voice, to present ideas, to be heard, and more.  Modeling communication behaviors where employees truly feel every one of them is given the same respect and dignity as every other employee goes a long way.
  8. Engagement and inclusion reduce harassing behavior – When these goals are achieved it is much more difficult for assumptions of ill intent to be made and a belief that others in the workplace care about you nullifies a perspective that you are being mistreated or harassed.
  9. Training is Key – The topic of effective workplace communication is not something shared in a video or a one and done event.  The expectations of respectful communication should be embedded in all training and should be revisited on a quarterly basis to ensure both consistency and sustainability.
  10. Walk the Walk – Lead by example.  We all have experience hearing people leaders tell their staff to do something however they themselves fail to model the behavior, and clearly the practices will not be adopted.  Therefore, leadership should find opportunities to model appropriate communication and hold each other accountable when they observe deficiencies.

Insight: One root cause of workplace harassment is a failure in effective and respectful communication.  These ten points shared can be leveraged to move the needle to a better culture and a more effective style of communication in your organization. Not all business leaders and owners have the requisite skills, knowledge, or experience in these types of communication strategies.  That is where you can establish a relationship with an HR Advisor of TAHR Services to develop, implement, and manage effective communication practices and strategies to mitigate these risks.  To learn more and have a discussion about your communication practices contact Warren Cook at TAHR Services by scheduling a free discovery call today.

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