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HR’s Role in Managing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

 

Question 2: Critically evaluate HR’s role in managing sexual harassment in the workplace in Renaissance Packaging and Manufacturing Ltd (RPM). As a result of this discussion, you are also required to evaluate the use of development programs for women in leadership positions.

Introduction

Sexual harassment at work is a social problem characterized by real issues in the work environment that calls for the attention/intervention of human resource management. While sexual harassment has been a topic of concern over a period of time, it has gained much attention in the contemporary period as a result of the evolution from the culture of silence (Boland, 2002).With this evolution, sexual harassment has become a major controversial human resource concern. In the attempt to estimate the level of sexual harassment, a US national study including over 14,000 participants indicated that 42% of women and 14% of men had experienced sexual harassment within a period of three years, and only 5% of those involved had gone ahead to report the occurrences. In many countries, sexual harassment is considered a form of illegal employment discrimination approach, especially against women, which is considered a reason for the gender imbalance in workplaces within positions of power (Boland, 2002). Sexual harassment constitutes activities such as; physical contact and advances, sexual remarks, undesirable sexual messages, stalking, implied preferential treatment, threats of detrimental treatment, and the creation of a hostile and detrimental work environment. According to the bureau of labor statistics, the estimated number of working women in America constitutes sixty-three million. In India, of the estimated number of working women, 17% are reported to have faced sexual harassment within their work environment between 2011-2012, most of which were nonphysical, with a few reported to be physical in nature. In India, the labor, domestic help, and small-scale manufacturing industries are reported to be the most unsafe for women concerning sexual harassment. Workplace harassment refers to offensive and demeaning behavior directed towards specific individuals or groups within the work environment (Boland, 2002). Sexual harassment is defined as offensive behavior which is perpetuated by a person’s sex. Usually, sexual harassment can take the form of sexual annoyance or sexual coercion and sexual abuse, characterized by unwelcome words, actions, gestures, and behaviors that are sexual in nature which causes targeted individuals to feel uncomfortable (Debebe, 2011).

Role of Human resource in handling sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is currently an issue of great concern worldwide, especially within companies and corporations. The role of preventing and managing this form of harassment when they occur ultimately falls to the human resource team.  Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome conduct of sexual nature that is sufficiently persistent or offensive to unreasonably interfere with an employee’s performance or create a hostile, offensive, and intimidating working environment. ‘Within the context of an organization, the Human Resource can prevent and manage sexual harassment by providing adequate training on what constitutes sexual harassment (Debebe, 2011).This can be ensured by providing training that is compliant with current laws and organizational policies. This training can be conducted alongside training on other forms of workplace harassment that should be available around the clock and provide a clear guideline for complaints and questions related to the topic. Creating harassment training requires a review and concrete understanding of current policies and procedures, assessment of the need for training, evaluation of learning options, strong reasoning behind training, support from the management team, funding and time allocation, hierarchical training, and feedback for improvement measures, an extension to other members and setting reminders.

Sufficient training on sexual harassment ensures that all members within the organization, including both the employees and management team, are fully conversant with the actions and laws, and policies of the organization related to sexual harassment. This training approach is important in controlling and managing sexual harassment by minimizing its occurrence, promoting a respectful workplace. Training also creates awareness among employees, which eradicates potential victims’ ignorance (Debebe, 2011). This way, individuals understand when others interfere with their work performance by using inappropriate actions and behavior. For example, in renaissance production and manufacture limited, Misra can take action because she is aware of what constitutes harassment. A lack of knowledge and ignorance can often promote suffering in silence.

The human resource team can also manage sexual harassment by establishing complaint reporting procedures to allow for thorough documentation. The information collected during complaint reporting should include names of the complainant and the accused, a full description of the incident including the time, location, and inclusion of potential witnesses, the effect of the incident on complainants on work performance, and other relevant information. The information collected and documented should be kept confidential at all times. Reported complaints of this kind should be addressed with seriousness. The human resource department should also ensure good relations with all the employees to ensure approachability (Mondy and Mondy, 2012). Establishing an efficient complaint reporting and documentation procedure creates an ample environment for any affected members to confidently take appropriate measures against their assailants. This, in its own right, acts as a control measure against workplace sexual harassment. This is evident in the case of Renaissance Production and manufacturing limited. Following her parent’s encouragement, Misra can make a report against Mr. Verma, whose actions and behavior towards her create an intimidating work environment.

The human resource within the organization also has the responsibility of creating a competent complaint resolution process. Resolution of complaints may, in some cases, take a formal or informal approach. In some cases, it is considered sufficient to hold face-to-face discussions with the accused to explain the nature of the offense and gain a different perspective of the incidence from the accused person’s summary. This, for example, is evident in the case of sexual harassment against Misra by Verma within the workplace of Renaissance Packaging and manufacturing limited. The human resource department gives Verma a chance to respond to the complaints against him. This allows for a different perspective of the incident whereby Verma justifies his actions in the claim that his actions towards Misra were based on the intention to help her acclimate to her new position in the organization and denies any connection to the packing lot experience in which Misra was humiliated by male employees towards which he expresses his regrets.

More serious cases related to criminal behaviors may require more formal approaches involving authorities’ notification for further investigations. Sexual harassment claims should be considered in all instances with seriousness because such incidences are an indirect violation of human rights acts and therefore require swift actions to preserve the reputation of both employees and the company (Mondy and Mondy, 2012).

In the management of sexual harassment complaints, it is also the human resource team’s role to develop and establish disciplinary measures against any guilty members following a critical investigation of the complaints. Such disciplinary actions include; sacking/ termination of employment, demotion, loss of job benefits, and criminal penalties. The establishment of such disciplinary measures is critical to emphasize the weight and intensity of the sexual harassment and other unacceptable behaviors within the organization, which is one way of preventing similar incidences. This way, employees understand that the organization has no tolerance for any forms of sexual harassment. For example, if Verma is found guilty of sexual harassment towards Misra, he will be subject to penalties as outlined by Renaissance Packaging and Manufacturing ltd.’s Human Resource department and potentially liable to criminal charges for his offense (Mondy and Mondy, 2012).

The use of development programs for women in positions of leadership

Organizations can also use development programs for women in the position of leadership to empower women and, therefore, reduce cases of sexual harassment. In the current age of globalization, organizations are mandated to develop the skill and abilities of all their employees to equip them for competition in the global market. In contemporary times, women have become a crucial component of the work environment, with some occupy over half of the managerial workforce, which is considered a rise from the 18% in 1972. In leadership, men are considered significantly different concerning leadership styles and leadership behaviors. While it is generally a challenge for women to attain leadership positions, it is much more difficult in cases about women of color than whites (Berry and Franks, 2010).

Leadership development is defined as expanding the collective capacity of members of an organization to take part in leadership activities and roles successfully. With women being the most affected in the workplace, it is important to create specific leadership development programs for women suited to their needs. Leadership development programs can take the form of training and education programs, coaching, mentoring networking, career planning, and experiential learning (Berry and Franks, 2010). Organizations require an increase in the number of women hired, retained, and promoted. Great potential indeed lies in women, and there are actually several leaders of the female gender who are highly interested in going after winning positions. However, they need to be supported, require much more visibility, and be in a good working environment. We could take the example of the human resource manager, Raina, in our case study’s RPM organization. She is actually a good leader with great potential. Still, She needs support in making tough choices and decisions like sexual arrangement against the organization’s longest-serving employee. The leadership programs for women are a perfect way to make sure women obtain the appropriate skills through which they can participate in much more senior roles. Taking the initiative to make sure that women’s leadership skills and qualities are upheld is a way of strengthening the necessary organizational support for the provision of leaders and talent pool (Berry and Franks, 2010).When dealing with issues related to women’s leadership development, there are some key things to consider. They include:

The setting of targets, use of reports, and accountability is a way of showing true commitment to the organization. In this case, leaders are given the mandate to ensure that reports are created, changes monitored, and impacts of these changes well brought out. By doing this, women leaders do perform their tasks freely without doubts.

Creation of clear opportunities for all level progression: ensuring of fair and transparent promotions and hiring through the establishment of clear criteria of evaluation and reward of senior leaders for identification of women with potential and find a way through which they can be helped to advance, this limits many cases of women harassment by senior leaders and instead help the women grow (Berry and Franks, 2010).

Campaigning for a respectful and inclusive culture will assure women leaders to be given respectful treatment just like any other leader. On inclusivity, women leaders will be given a place to contribute their ideas in committees, making decisions most appropriately. Taking an example of our case study, with respect and inclusivity, Raina, together with the committee members, can make a perfect judgment of the sexual harassment case.

Conclusion

Within the work environment, women, unlike men, are more susceptible to different forms of harassment, emphasizing sexual harassment. Based on research, each woman is subject to at least one incident of sexual harassment at a particular point in their career. This makes workplace sexual harassment a critical area of concern for the human resource department, especially within the corporate organization. Managing these cases of harassment falls to the human resource team, who are mandated with the responsibility of their resolution. Following any instances of harassment within an organization, HR roles include the provision of training regarding the form’s workplace harassment and details of what such harassment entail and ways in which it can be identified, provision of complaint reporting and documentation procedure, investigation of the complaints, developing an efficient resolution process and disciplinary measures for the guilty parties. Leadership development programs are critical in improving women’s abilities, skills, experience, knowledge, and competencies in leadership positions. These development programs may take different forms, such as education and training programs, coaching, and mentoring. These development programs are characterized by an increase of women’s human, social, political, and capital portfolios, which facilitate individual and organizational growth.

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