How to Foster a No-Excuses Online Work Environment
Workplace harassment is in the news, almost on a daily occurrence. Here’s one of the latest more high profile cases: celebrated college coach Urban Meyer was fired from his first NFL job with the Jacksonville Jaguars after a series of incidents concerning how Meyer treated people, culminating in the report of a player alleging that Meyer kicked him.
No workplace, even a professional sports workplace such as football that involves physical contact among players, need tolerate physical assault or bullying. A cynic might argue that Meyer’s larger transgression was a losing season. (The Jacksonville Jaguars went 2-11 under Meyer.) But any organization that doesn’t counter harassment before it starts is going to lose its employees and tarnish its brand identity.
In Urban Meyer’s case, the harassment was physically observed and reported. But what happens when harassment takes place online in employee emaIl and messaging communications?
How can your organization counter online harassment before it harms your company and your employees?
In this post we cover:
- What constitutes workplace harassment
- The new world of email and messaging harassment
- How your organization can detect and respond to harassment in electronic communications
What Constitutes Workplace Harassment?
For a definition of what constitutes workforce harassment, refer to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history). Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.
Harassment may be verbal or physical. It could also be psychological; examples include excluding a team member from meetings, withholding information needed to perform a job, or taking credit for someone else’s work.
For the most part, these kinds of harassment are observable. Not so with digital harassment, which takes place on social media, email and messaging apps.
The New World of Email and Messaging Harassment
Email and messaging became standard tools of employee communication long before the pandemic arrived. However, another side effect of the pandemic is it forced companies and employees into remote working arrangements to an unprecedented degree. Moreover, remote working is likely to continue along the same lines for the foreseeable future. Email and messaging are now even more so the primary means of employee communication than ever before.
Further exacerbating this situation, while many employees discovered they preferred remote working, many others feel even more socially isolated at a time when personal interactions are minimized in avoiding COVID. Consequently, they are less likely to report instances of harassment, whether the harassment is directed at themselves or colleagues. To make matters worse, there isn’t an HR office down the hall where someone can feel safe to discuss any such concerns in confidence and in private.
For these reasons, workplace harassment is less likely to be detected today than in the pre-pandemic, work in the office model. Consequently, organizations are allowing toxic behavior to slowly permeate throughout the organization, unwittingly allowing behavior that depresses morale and destroys brand reputation.
What’s to be done?
“Establish policies protecting your employees from harassment and prohibiting your employees from harassing others using employer provided equipment. While you may already have a basic policy, most current harassment policies list forms and examples of prohibited conduct with a focus on in-person behavior. Add online harassment to your policy and include hate speech; cyberbullying; hacking; impersonation (posting photos and materials in another’s name); dogpiling (multiple employees sending threatening messages attacking a person’s political views); doxing (hacking into co-worker accounts); and trolling as prohibited actions.”
Establishing an updated harassment policy to cover unacceptable online conduct is one thing. Detecting unacceptable online conduct in employee email and messaging communications is quite another.
Proactively Counter Email and Messaging Harassment
How can any organization possibly ensure the literally hundreds if not thousands of daily messages shared among employees do not contain harassing content?
The answer is CommSafe AI Safe Communications Software™, a smart, scalable tool to detect in real-time potential harassment content in email and chat communications. It not only detects and flags unacceptable terms that indicate harassment, but also tone and sentiment.
CommSafe AI Safe Communications Software doesn’t intrude on employee communications or even police them. It simply scans for potential issues and designates them for your HR staff to determine next steps. CommSafe AI Safe Communications Software works with your organization’s systems and methodologies and easily integrates with your tech, case management system, and workflows.
It’s the intelligent solution combining machine learning and human judgement and experience to better ensure employee communications are free of harassing content. It’s simple to use, with an easy-to-read dashboard that displays flagged email and messaging communications as they take place, so you can counter online harassment before it escalates into a problem that harms employees and your company..