March '18

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MARCH 2018 THE SHOP 61 about it," says Harkins. "Sometimes they just want to have a discussion, or just have the person counseled. And still other times they ask that a person be terminated for making a single, unfunny joke." If the remedial action does not satisfy the complainant, Harkins suggests involving the person in any new training that the company will be introducing to the work- place. That can help to provide a broader base of knowledge, so that focus is taken off the individual and put onto a general improvement in the environment. BE PROACTIVE Communicate your seriousness about the issue by actively monitoring your work- place for violations. "Don't just wait for complaints to be filed," says Gregg. "Be proactive." Make sure all supervisors realize they have a duty to take action when a questionable event occurs. Such monitoring should include behavior that might not yet be illegal, but that has the potential to escalate, says Gregg. "When a person is nasty, surly and engaged in behavior that is disruptive and abusive, speak up and say you expect the individual to be civil." Indeed, attorneys recommend being alert to any activity that reflects a disrespect for others or creates a hostile working environ- ment. That includes making crude com- ments or reinforcing gender stereotypes. A proactive stance may require a change in basic mindset. "Most supervisors are reactionary," says Ford. "They are not accustomed to working on creating an environment where if something inappropriate is said there is an opportunity to discuss what happened, why it is inappropriate, and then move on to improving behaviors." Result? "Things get worse because man- agement has issued an unspoken 'OK' to bad behavior." BEWARE FRATERNIZATION Supervisors need to understand the risks involved in blurring the line between busi- ness and personal relationships. "Managers and supervisors can have friendly relationships with subordinates, but they should not be friends with sub- ordinates," says McDonald. Failure to maintain professional distance, he says, can lead to situations that may not appear initially as harassment, but could result in such charges down the road. What are some signs of danger? "The subordinate may start to feel he or she can take liberties such as texting the manager after business hours about per- sonal problems," says McDonald. "Or, the subordinate may ask for advice on relation- ships or financial issues, or ask to borrow money, or invite the supervisor to a social outing with a friend. These kinds of liber- ties can create situations that backfire on the manager." Backing off in such instances is a wise idea. And so is a reluctance to go one step further and engage in a dating relationship with a subordinate, (see sidebar). AVOID MISTAKES While a conscientious employer can go a long way toward creating a respectful workplace, it's easy to let the ball drop in the rush of daily business. "Employers tend to make several common errors," says Harkins. "One is not repeating training frequently enough. Sometimes they will do a large training Shop_Mar2018_offer.indd 1 1/17/18 4:11 PM

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