How policy and culture combine to make for the optimal working environment.

Workplace harassment. It’s becoming tougher and tougher to strike a balance between policies, what is considered appropriate behavior by all and still having a fun and fulfilling workplace that your employees look forward to going to everyday.

Our Human Resources team recently outlined ways to avoiding a harassment claim in “6 Steps to Avoiding a Harassment Claim.” They included steps such as having a policy, educating employees and addressing complaints immediately, among others. But it’s more than that.

The six steps we listed need to be put in place, there’s no question about that, but in doing so leaders must ask another question: Is this to avoid litigation or to put employees first and prioritize creating a workplace that feels safe, comfortable, fun and fulfilling? It is in the underlying intent and, most importantly, in the everyday actions and words of leadership where the real avoidance of harassment claims is created.

An anti-harassment policy is of paramount importance, but creating one is probably the easiest part of the equation. What’s more difficult is creating a workplace culture with clear guidelines and expectations that do not feel too sterile, or restrictive.

Policies are a good and necessary step for every workplace. Great workplaces also have leadership that ensure policies won’t hamper your collaborative environment.

The effectiveness of policies diminish if members of the leadership team don’t enforce them or do not demonstrate proper behavior themselves. It’s up to leadership to navigate into the grey area and lead by showing examples of appropriate interactions and team collaboration, so employees can gauge their own communications.

Do you relax the rules for a jerk who is a high performer, or do you part ways because his or her behavior will not be tolerated despite stellar tactical work performance? It all depends on your culture and the policies you have in place.

Sharing policies without the proper communication and examples can leave employees feeling confused, guarded at all times and limit their interactions with co-workers. That mindset won’t foster the collaboration you’re striving for.

You can improve your chances of avoiding a harassment claim by creating a policy, but without the right intentions and sincerity, buy-in and modeling by the leadership team, they won’t protect you or your company and you’ll never have the culture that high performing employees are seeking.

When drafting your anti-harassment policy and others, keep this in mind: Policies have to be sincere, speak to the culture you want to create and not about avoiding litigation.  Develop them by putting your people first and your company will win in the end.


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