Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Contributor:  Audrey Allen, Member Services Committee

The International Labour Organization (ILO) describes sexual harassment in the workplace as any verbal or physical act with a sexual nature, performed in recruitment or in the workplace by a boss, manager, employee, client or customer of a working unit, that is unwelcomed by the person receiving it and has caused the person to feel violated, insulted, and being in an unbearable hostile environment.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines this behavior as unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature ...when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
Workplace covers any place under the direct or indirect control of the employer that an employee needs to be present or go to in order to carry out work. It includes office and other locations where the job responsibilities are undertaken, such as offices of clients, destinations of business trips, venues of business lunch/dinner, business branches, homes of clients, etc. and also the appropriate extension of the workplace, such as excursion, social activities, staff gathering after work that are organized by the company.
There are different forms of sexual harassment in the workplace – verbal, physical, visual. The verbal or physical acts with a sexual nature include joking or teasing with a sexual nature; continuous invitation to dinner or date despite rejection; intentional dissemination of hearsay with a sexual nature; enquiring for or sharing sexual experience; spreading, request for sexual intercourse; unnecessary physical contact; forced sexual intercourse; visual act would involve displaying a nude or image with apparent sexual contents.
Sexual harassment in the workplace can be very damaging to the well being of an employee as well as the company. It destroys morale, build distrust, and affect productivity through frequent absences, illness, reduced efficiency, demotivation and resignations. It could result in emotional and stress-related illnesses, revulsion, anger, and frustration.  It can affect promotion, loss of benefits through length of service on retirement, and job security.  

Recourse against sexual harassment can be by way of legal, but research has suggested that the best way is to develop and implement a policy.  HR can play a leading role in preventing and correcting this behavior, through awareness, communication and civility can lead to the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.  Employers can implement a policy and include the following steps to protect their company and employees:

§  Create a written policy on sexual harassment. Immediately emphasize in the policy that the company will have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace. Also state that if a complaint is lodged, it will be thoroughly and quickly investigated.
§  Educate all supervisors and staff about what constitutes sexual harassment.  Clearly define sexual harassment so no one can claim that he/she did not know that the behavior was inappropriate.
§  Publicize the policy throughout the workplace.
§  Create a communication channel where complaints can be reported and also where natural embarrassment, reluctance and fear will be eliminated or minimized.
§  Take speedy action to investigate and resolve all complaints. The policy should identify the individuals to whom a complaint can be made. It is usually the Manager, Human Resources or some other management official. It is wise to name at least two people to contact since one may be the harasser, and the company will need a neutral party to investigate.
§  Communicate that offenders will be appropriately disciplined.
§  When beginning the investigation, question the complainant first and then the alleged harasser. Ask open- ended questions and try not to be judgmental. Give the same attention and respect to both parties.
§  Do not guarantee absolute confidentiality to either party but do try to keep the investigation as confidential as possible.

§  After interviewing the parties involved, speak to any witnesses whose names have arisen in the investigation, and reiterate that they should also maintain confidentiality to prevent hurt feelings and further damage to the workforce.

§  Evaluate all the evidence from every source. If the investigation is inconclusive, notify both parties that the investigation did not support the allegations and no corrective actions will therefore be taken. If the evidence, however, substantiates the complaint, take immediate steps to discipline the harasser. This may be a severe reprimand, suspension, or termination depending on the seriousness of the behavior and the disciplinary steps required to be followed in the company’s policy. Warn the harasser if he/she is not discharged that any future sexual harassment or retaliation can result in possible termination. Tell the victim of HR’s decision, apologize, and promise to stop any future sexual harassment or retaliation that may occur. Do not engage in any action towards the victim that may be interpreted as punishment for coming forward.
§  Write a thorough report on all the findings. Summarize the allegations, responses and conclusions made. Allow both parties to read the report but do not give them copies so that confidentiality may be maintained.
§  Monitor exit interviews for previously suppressed claims of sexual harassment and act on the complaints, even if the employee has left the job. It is suggested by the ILO that monitoring of both parties continue for up to one year to assure that sexual harassment has stopped and has not reoccurred.

If HR consistently follows its company policy, train its employees to spot sexual harassment, and take swift corrective action if harassment does occur, these steps may prevent this type of misconduct. 

According to the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and measures should be implemented to address this issue in the workplace. In several developed countries there are organizations that have the responsibility to advise persons who make charges of sexual harassment, to disseminate information and to train in the handling of sexual harassment cases. If management’s intervention is ineffective, then one may consult a lawyer or contact an organization such as the Bureau of Women’s Affairs to seek redress.  

While there is no Jamaican law on the subject of sexual harassment, it could become a legal issue depending on the extent of the harassment, for instance if it reaches the state of assault.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Social Media Network Policy

Author:  Audrey Allen
Member – Member Services Committee
Social media networking is engrained in our personal and professional lives.  The younger generation have become totally immersed in the internet and interactive mobile technologies such as texting, instant messaging, blogging and social networking.   Consequently, it has become necessary to implement rules and regulations to efficiently manage and monitor the use of this phenomenon in the working environment.

But what is social media?  Hemsley (2012) defines social media as the set of platforms that enable “people to connect, communicate and collaborate.  Two key aspects of any kind of social software are that they allow for users to self-organize into social networks, and they support conversational interaction and social feedback that facilitates building trust and signaling reputation within a community”.

Social media is often considered only as some well-known sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.  It actually goes further however, encompassing the Internet technologies that enable people to share contents through social networks, blogs, videos, photos, wikis, online reviews.  All of these platforms work together to create a rich set of tools that allows users to find information and stay continuously connected to friends and people with whom they share interests.

The growth of social channels, networks and media tools are progressing rapidly, according to a study conducted by the Canadian Media Research Consortium in November 2011:
  • 800 million users for Facebook
  • 200 million Twitter Users per day
  • LinkedIn has over 10 million users

Benefits and Challenges

There are several benefits of social media networking, as mentioned in a SHRM 2010 Report. Your organization’s participation may

  • Increase traffic to company website
  • Improve your organization’s reputation/authority
  • Build connections
  • Assist in Recruitment
  • Obtain instant feedback
  • Conduct competitive intelligence analysis
  • Discover resources, expertise, potential prospects
  • Innovate and solve problems
  • Build a sense of community

On the other hand, there is the “dark side” of the social media.  Utililization may

  • Present a compromise to confidentiality.  Company information can be obtained by cybercriminals; consequently na├»ve users engaging in friendly chats may lead to unintended disclosure of company information.
  • Open up the possibility for hackers to commit fraud and launch spam and virus attacks.
  • Increase the risk of people falling prey to online scams that seem genuine, resulting in data or identity theft.
  • Result in negative comments from employees about the company or potential legal consequences if employees use these sites to view objectionable, illicit or offensive material.
  • Result in lost productivity, especially if employees are busy updating profiles, etc. Research has indicated that half of employees access Facebook during working hours. 
Why do we need a social media network policy?

The main purposes of a social media networking policy are

  1. The opportunity to build company’s brands, based on the benefits outlined earlier.  There is a need to manage and monitor what is being said about the organization
  2. Crisis Management. There is a huge risk for employees to inadvertently damage the brand of organization.  Guidelines are required to mitigate these risks.

Blocking of the social networking sites on the company network to achieve these objectives should not be considered as an option as employees also post from home.  A ban or block will likely cause frustration and resentment among younger workers. which may result in employees identifying a way around this restriction, for example through anonymous proxies which could damage corporate defenses or by leaving the organization.

The policy will therefore serve to guide employees in the use of the social media network within the workplace.  Organizations need to exert some control on how sites are used and not just hope that employees will exercise some common sense.  In addition, penalties cannot be administered for violation of rules that do not exist.  Discussions on this subject by panelists at the HRMAJ General Meeting held on Thursday, May 31, 2012, emphasized two important characteristics of the policy.  It is critical that it is explicitly clear on what is permissible and the consequences that will result in relation to any breaches to such policy.  There should also be effective communication throughout the organization as it relates to the details and implementation of the policy, with an indication of employees’ understanding and acceptance on record.   This will be very useful in the event of any possible litigation process.

While social media network policies are tailored to the needs of the organization, experts have suggested that the following elements be included:
  • Definition of social networking, particularly pertaining to your organization so employees know exactly what is meant by the term
·         Establishment of a clear and defined purpose for the policy
  • Communication of benefits of social networking and of having a policy
·         Monitoring of Employees
  • Consideration of any legal ramifications of not following laws
  • Reference to proprietary and confidential information at risk
  • Productivity in terms of social networking
  • Provides guidance regarding social networking outside of company time/property that could be associated with the company, employees or customers
  • Outline of disciplinary measures to be taken for policy violations
·         Employee’s Acknowledgment
The most concerning aspect of social networking platforms is that they encourage people to share personal information. Even the most cautious and well-meaning individuals can give away information they should not; the same applies to what is posted on company-approved social networking platforms. 
Employees may not be aware of how their actions online may compromise company security. Educate employees as to how a simple click on a received link or a downloaded application can result in a virus infecting their computer and the network.  Remember that just because employees may have an online profile, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a high level of security awareness.
The inclusion of these guidelines into your social media network policy should alleviate any possible misunderstandings which may arise with the use of this ever growing trend within the working environment.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Blog Post

Over the course of the past months HRMAJ has sought to send daily messages of motivation to our supporters on our Facebook page. As the year comes to an end, this week’s Friday Blog Post will count down the Top 10 quotes of the year based on the response of you our followers and supporters.

10. "Virtually every company will be going out and empowering their workers with a certain set of tools, and the big difference in how much value is received from that will be how much the company steps back and really thinks through their business processes, thinking through how their business can change, how their project management, their customer feedback, their planning cycles can be quite different than they ever were before."-Bill Gates

9.  "Not many of us will be leaders; and even those who are leaders must also be followers much of the time. This is the crucial role. Followers judge leaders. Only if the leaders pass that test do they have any impact. The potential followers, if their judgment is poor, have judged themselves. If the leader takes his or her followers to the goal, to great achievements, it is because the followers were capable of that kind of response."-Garry Wills in Certain Trumpets: The Nature of Leadership

8. ‎"The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense."-Thomas Edison

7. "Thought for lunch: “How many of you have received an honest, straight-between-the-eyes feedback session in the past year, where you came out knowing exactly what you have to do to improve and where you stand in the organization?"-Jack Welch

6. "Executives owe it to the organization and to their fellow workers not to tolerate nonperforming individuals in important jobs."-Peter Drucker

5. ‎"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." --Theodore Roosevelt

4. ‎"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."-Winston Churchill

3.  "Leaders who win the respect of others are the ones who deliver more than they promise, not the ones who promise more than they can deliver."-Mark A. Clement

2. "Companies cannot promise their people lifetime employment. Global competition is too fierce and economic cycles too frequent for any such guarantees. But they can promise their people every chance for employability – skills that will make them more attractive if they are forced to part ways."-Jack Welch

1. "You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don’t exceed the employees’ expectations of management." - Howard Schultz

 Feel free to vote and name which quote you think deserves to be placed in the number one spot.

Join in the discussion and tell us where you stand. It begins with us, it begins right here.

The Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica
“Enhancing the Value of Human Capital for Growth and Development”

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Blog Post: Importance of Ethics Engagement

Today's Blog Post will centre on the Importance of Ethics Engagement and will take a new format. To encourage discussion this week's blog post will be in the form of video.Take a look at this video courtesy of Human Resources Magazine HRTV and post below your comments and questions.

What is your opinion on the importance of ethics management?
Is ethics management pursued and encouraged in your organization?

Join in the discussion and tell us where you stand. It begins with us, it begins right here.

The Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica
“Enhancing the Value of Human Capital for Growth and Development”

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Blog Post

Today's Blog Post takes a look at an article by Liz Weber for focusing on one of today's relevant topics: Layoffs and how to manage them. These tips are concise and helpful not only for organizations who may be faced with the difficult situation of laying off staff, but also for staff who stand in the converse situation.

Can you identify with the steps taken in this article? Did you find the results positive or negative? Leave a comment below this post to let us know what you think.

Join in the discussion and tell us where you stand. It begins with us, it begins right here.

The Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica
“Enhancing the Value of Human Capital for Growth and Development”

Managing Lay Offs With Dignity

With the potential for layoffs facing more and more companies, the realities of laying off great workers is confronting many business owners and managers: owners and managers who have never before faced this hard act. To help ease the pain for the employees being laid off, the owners and managers making the hard decisions, as well as those employees staying behind, I thought I'd share a 5 Step approach that may help you, your employees, and your business. It will not work for many of your businesses given union contracts, etc. but if it helps some others - use it.

Everyone knows the economy is uncertain and most employees are rightfully concerned about job stability. When people become nervous, the rumor mill kicks into high gear. We all know the rumor mill can destroy individuals quicker than many things. So if you haven't yet, start communicating now. Lay out clearly how your company is and will address future business slow-downs.

Step 1 - Hold a "State of the Business" meeting with all employees and let them know the current state of your business. Let your employees know what your plan is for lay-offs and how you'll handle lay offs if your company needs to resort to them. Share with your employees the following - or your own plan - for dealing with a slow down. The important thing is to communicate clearly the state of your business now and what will cause you to move to the next step.

Step 2 - Reduce management salaries. Should business start to slow down and you need to more proactively preserve cash and control costs, don't immediately lay-off the lowest paid, front-line workers. They're the people who do what your business is known for. Do what you can to retain them. Instead, consider doing what a few of my clients are doing:

Cut management salaries. Tell your employees this during your State of the Business Meeting. Let them know, you're working to protect the front-line workers' jobs, so the first wave of cost reductions will be borne by the management team. (One client cut all executive salaries by 15%; all mid-level managers by 10%.)

If you, like one of my clients, has a manager who "jokingly" asks, "But I'll still get my bonus won't I?" consider my response. "Absolutely. But first I want to sit in the meeting you're going to have with the employee(s) who will need to be laid off in order to pay you your bonus. I want to hear how you explain to them that you will still get your bonus while they lose their jobs. Once they give you the O.K., you'll get your bonus." (Yeah I know it's mean, but - duh. No bonuses.) 

Step 3 - Reduce or completely eliminate any overtime (within the law.) Again, this needs to be clarified during your initial Meeting, but let all employees know the ability for your company to pay - and their ability to continue to earn and live on - overtime rates is gone. Give your employees time to mentally shift and realize they may need to dramatically cut their living expenses and not count on overtime pay or consider it their "normal" income any more.

Step 4 - Reduce worker hours and cross-train. Again, where possible, instead of completely eliminating positions, reduce worker hours to preserve cash while allowing employees to maintain an income stream. If you haven't yet, this is also a critical time to cross-train and to provide additional training for staff. When things turn around, they'll have solid skills. During slow times, they'll continue to provide value for your business by working -- maybe on things they've never done before -- but they'll be working and continuing to broaden their skills.

Step 5 - When you can't hold off a lay-off any further. Lay off staff. Hold conversations with them to further clarify what they're next steps may be. Provide them with information on continuing benefits, unemployment, etc. Don't treat them as if they've committed a crime by standing guard next to them as they pack up their personal items and then escorting them out of the building.
Allow them to say good-bye to colleagues and leave with dignity.

The above steps may not work for your business. But at least have a strategy in place for how your company will face business downturns and then clearly and regularly communicate that plan to your staff. Most importantly, keep your employees informed of your business' progression to the next Step. Let them plan with you how to deal with the change in business and their employment situation. It'll help you and them face a difficult time together with mutual respect and dignity.

Copyright 2009 - Liz Weber, CMC - Weber Business Services, LLC.
WBS is a team of Strategic Planning and Leadership DevelopmentConsultants, Trainers, and Speakers. Liz can be reached atliz@wbsllc.comor (717)597-8890. Additional articles on strategic & succession planning and leadership can be found at or

Permission to reprint this article is granted as long as you use the complete attribution above - including live website link and e-mail address - and you send me an email at to let me know where the article will be published.