to address harassment, bullying and discrimination
with Stephen Hammond
Tip #10 — KEEPING AN EYE ON SOCIAL EVENTS
Most harassment cases off workplace property are not as severe, and do not end up with a person being fired. In my experience, most involve booze, parties or an infatuation. As the late comedian Phyllis Diller said, "What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day." Perhaps you should encourage the employees under your wing to take her comments to heart. When companies hire me to train employees about harassment issues, they often ask me to dwell a little on booze and company outings, thanks to unfortunate incidents in their past.
Not that employees shouldn't socialize after hours. When problems do occur, most off-premises conflicts do not involve harassment. Personality conflicts or other problems that don't fit the definition of harassment do not have to be settled with a harassment policy or procedure. You might have a problem on your hands, but it won't be harassment.
Infatuations are particularly tricky to identify and deal with. As often as not, the person needs counselling of some kind. Your role is simply to let the spurned employee know he needs to keep his feelings in check, while ensuring that the object of his desires feels completely comfortable bringing any problem to your attention. You can minimize the chances of off-premises issues becoming a bigger problem by letting employees know even their actions off the work site can become a workplace concern.
1) Deal with an issue immediately - when an incident takes place at a workplace social function, deal with it right there. In other words, if someone is making a fool of himself on top of the tables pull him down and have a chat right away.
2) Deal with an issue immediately after the fact - if you don't know of something until after the event, then take immediate action once you do. Don't let it simmer.
3) Deal with the person involved - and don't punish everyone. There are many instances where one person (or a few) take part in inappropriate behaviour and suddenly everyone finds themselves in a training session about harassment. Don't punish everyone for the actions of a few (or one). Deal with that person and be clear what went wrong and what needs to be done to correct the situation.