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Clear Guidelines, Communication Help Prevent Workplace Harassment

By Emma Ginader The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Human resources specialist Tina Welch advises businesses to have clear guidelines and consistent communication about their anti-harassment policies.


Eleven local professionals learned this week how clear communication and standards can stop and prevent workplace harassment and discrimination.

Welch Performance Consulting Human Resources Solutions Specialist Tina Welch led the "#TimesUp for Small Business Owners: Awareness, Policy, Training and Behavior" workshop held at the Bucknell SBDC's Market Street office in Lewisburg.

Bucknell SBDC Assistant Director for Business Consulting Maureen Hauck said the center wanted to highlight this issue due to the growing prominence of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

"During my past life in retail, I've dealt with it as a manager," said Hauck. "How a supervisor or employer responds does set the tone for the entire company. It can destroy employee morale if not dealt with properly."

Welch advises businesses to have clear guidelines and consistent communication about their anti-harassment policies.

"Some employers say this is just common sense, but common sense can be pretty grey and fallible," she said. "In many of these cases, people aren't aware of how their behavior is being perceived."

Business policies should be written down and provide a promise of protection against retaliation for speaking out about concerns, workplace harassment and discrimination definitions and potential corrective actions to ensure all employees have the same understanding. These policies should be reviewed during the initial hire and on an annual basis, she said.

The written policies also should include multiple internal avenues for employees to report issues, she noted. Employees could have a concern about their direct supervisor, want to avoid a direct confrontation or talk directly with someone they trust.

Welch said training helps enable a pro-active and communicative stance against harassment. It can help employees identify and handle harassment and discrimination.

Welch also recommends special training for management so they can learn how to lead by example and handle harassment situations. Management training also has a positive impact on employees because it sends a message that supervisors will seriously consider and properly address their concerns.

However, all the training won't matter if people don't learn to take responsibility for their actions, Welch noted. "Only an individual can control their own behavior," she said.

Andrew Miller, the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau Executive Director, agreed. "Everyone needs to take responsibility."

Reba and Pancho's restaurant owner and workshop participant Bekah Meixell said, "If we are aware, we can make all aspects of our business better."

Bucknell University Women's Resource Center Director Kelsey Hicks, whose center helped co-sponsor the workshop, said it is important to provide resources like these workshops for local businesses.

"Small businesses are the life of our communities," she said. "When they create safe environments, everyone wins and our communities are safer."

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