How should I react when an employee files complaints?

Our previous two blog posts have been about how to respond to a complaint about sexual harassment in your company. The steps you take after the complaint is made are all important. Just as important is your reaction when you learn of the allegations.

Should I promise the complainant that confidentiality is guaranteed?

You shouldn't make any promises about the confidentiality of the complaint. As we discussed last week, you may have to conduct interviews of witnesses and of the person who was accused. This can make it difficult to maintain total confidentiality. Instead of promising confidentiality, you can promise that you will give the complaint a priority status.

How should I react when the complaint is made?

A person who was the victim of perceived sexual harassment may be shaken up. Because of this, you need to give the person a listening ear and reassure him or her that you will investigate the complaint in an effort to keep the workplace free of harassment. In some cases, offering an employee time off of work if the employee is visibly shaken might be appropriate. If you do this, make it clear that you aren't sending him or her home as punishment since you don't want it to seem like you are retaliating against the employee because of the complaint.

You never want your workplace to be a place that is known for allowing sexual harassment to occur. You also don't want to become known as someone who is unsympathetic toward victims of sexual harassment or someone who reacts to sexual harassment complaints in a knee-jerk manner. Instead, carefully think about what you are going to do now so that when a sexual harassment complaint comes in, you can react in a calm manner.

Source: Global Post, "How to Respond to a Harassment Complaint at Work," Ruth Mayhew, accessed Sep. 09, 2015

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