Harassment: Creating a Safe Place to Speak Up

harassment safe places

Workplace Harassment

By wearing black to the 75th annual Golden Globe awards ceremony on Sunday January 7, 2018, celebrities from every part of the entertainment industry showed their support for the critical movement to break the silence on sexual harassment and assault. For too long, people have been afraid to speak out about harassment. They have also felt forced to remain silent due to threatened repercussions. But now, the nation is rallying to put an end to this fear of speaking up. In like manner, corporate America is determined to create and maintain safe environments for their people.

Specialists in the field define psychological safety as “a shared belief that it’s safe to discuss ideas, experiment, take risks, give feedback, and learn from mistakes.”* So, let’s take a brief look at what establishing a psychologically safe workplace looks like.

Cultivating a psychologically safe workplace means each of the following:

1. People feel comfortable speaking

For quite some time, silence has misled. Often, the perceived need to keep it all together for “that” promotion also presumes that to “make waves” suggests emotional inability to handle greater responsibility. However, this is not the case. It goes without saying, venting every struggle to a manager or repeating hearsay about co-workers are far from helpful or constructive. Nevertheless, organizations must create environments in which people feel comfortable expressing concerns without anxiety over the risk of adverse consequences. Inviting openness from team members increases awareness of office dynamics. In like manner, freedom to voice unease alerts others when issues of serious concern arise. Furthermore, welcoming authentic communication gives insight for building mutually respectful collaboration.

2. Openness reflects the new norm

Disclosing anything other than the positive concerning a fellow employee or manager does not have to be unprofessional. Likewise, divulging pertinent information should never result in negative impact for the person from whom the report comes. Psychologically safe workplaces are ones in which people feel comfortable with the kind of professional tension that leads to resolution. Suitable confrontation encourages appropriately approaching an individual with whom a team member has an issue or, if apprehensive, telling someone who can help. Confident openness and respectful communication foster team unity.

3. Immediate action

Making the choice to delay taking action in regard to an issue that comes to our attention is to make the wrong choice. When someone trusts us enough to share a concern, it is always our responsibility to do what is within our power to address the matter immediately. Initiating protocol to resolve the matter appropriately and professionally is crucial and time sensitive. Frankly, silence, or delay, on our part concerning issues such as harassment makes us an accessory to the individual responsible for the harassment.


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