The Human Resources (HR) function is a support function that interacts and engages with every vertical in an organization. Although HR might not have the primary responsibility of investigating or resolving complaints, its support function involves strategic influence, skillful navigation of workplace dynamics, and maintaining a delicate equilibrium between employees and management.
Cultivating a workplace environment where all employees feel safe and respected is pivotal for organizational success. In this pursuit, HR functions play a pivotal role in preventing and addressing workplace sexual harassment, requiring careful collaboration with every vertical in the organization. This gives HR a unique insight and position with respect to addressing issues of sexual harassment in the organization.
HR is also the human face of the organization for every employee who joins or leaves the company and has any needs in between that are work adjacent. The company’s reputation as an ‘employer of choice’ is then heavily reliant on the impression that HR makes on the employees who come to them.
Strategic Collaboration Across Verticals: HR must collaborate closely with different verticals, including leadership, departments, and teams, to instill a shared commitment to a respectful workplace. This collaborative effort can encompass joint workshops, training sessions, and policy dissemination, demonstrating HR’s dedication to promoting a culture of respect.
Influencing Workplace Dynamics: HR’s role extends beyond policy enforcement; it’s about shaping workplace dynamics. Recognizing the delicate nature of these dynamics, HR must tactfully engage with managers, supervisors, and employees to foster an environment where open communication is encouraged. By providing guidance on appropriate behavior and offering conflict resolution support, HR can subtly influence workplace interactions.
Creating Collaborative Solutions: HR folks get a lot of flak for running ineffective ‘team building activities’. However, it should be appreciated for the effort of bringing together diverse people from various backgrounds who are not incentivized to share and collaborate except for purposes of work. HR’s role transcends reactive measures; it’s about proactively devising solutions. By encouraging cross-functional collaboration, HR can help build a united front against sexual harassment, where employees and management work together towards a shared goal.
Sensitive Communication: Effective communication is paramount when dealing with sensitive matters like sexual harassment. HR professionals must possess the ability to communicate clearly and empathetically. It is also important to know what not to say, and when not to get involved. The Internal Committee of the organization should be supported by HR, and HR cannot overstep its bounds.
Counseling and Support: HR folks often have an interest and capacity for personnel psychology. Counselling and acting with empathy are important skills in an HR person’s roster. They can help employees navigate the emotional challenges that may arise.
Navigating Legal and Organizational Realities: HR must operate within the legal framework while understanding the unique dynamics of their organization. While HR may not directly handle investigations, they should collaborate with the Internal Committee to ensure proper implementation of any administrative actions that have to be taken.
Balancing Employee and Management Interests: The loudest complaints against HR are that they are a mouthpiece for the management. The common refrain is that they pretend to care about employee concerns so that they can pre-emptively prepare management in case of escalations. While this may have some truth in it, in certain organizations with poor culture, it is not always the case. HR has the trust of the employees. The balancing act between employee concerns and management’s strategic priorities requires finesse. HR is tasked with understanding both perspectives and mediating in a way that maintains transparency and trust. While supporting employees, HR should also provide management with insights into the overall employee sentiment, enabling them to make informed decisions that align with the organization’s values.
Fostering a Cultural Shift: HR’s true purpose, in the author’s mind, is as a torchbearer for company culture. To envision, articulate and advocate for a progressive and inclusive culture is HR’s ultimate goal. HR should aim to drive a cultural shift where sexual harassment becomes unthinkable. This cultural transformation requires HR to be persistent, patient, and adaptable.
In conclusion, HR’s role in preventing and addressing workplace sexual harassment is nuanced and multifaceted. By strategically collaborating with all verticals, influencing workplace dynamics, balancing employee and management interests, creating collaborative solutions, practicing sensitive communication, providing counseling and support, and navigating legal and organizational realities, HR can effectively promote a respectful work environment. The journey towards eradicating sexual harassment requires HR’s unwavering commitment, as they navigate the intricate web of workplace dynamics with grace and determination.
At KelpHR, we firmly believe that cultivating safe, happy and inclusive work environments serves as the foundation for business transformation and expansion. We can help you and your organization embark on a journey towards a more inclusive and respectful workplace culture.
KelpHR was incorporated in 2013 to provide the best HR solutions to organizations, and to improve workplace culture across the board. Over the last 10 years, we have serviced more than 700 clients in India and a few overseas, across various industries in the areas of PoSH (prevention of sexual harassment at workplace), EAP and D, E & I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion). But the common objective of all these services is to build safer, happier, inclusive and productive workplaces.
For our services related to Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH), Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D,E &I) or Employee Assistance programs (EAP) do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call +91-95001-29652 and we’d be able to help you with customized offerings suited to your organization.