Meaning of the code of conduct and ethics policy

Integrity, transparency and trust are the foundations upon which any good business has to be built. Therefore a full commitment to a code of conduct and an ethics policy is essential and should be the cornerstone of every business philosophy.

It must be made clear that the code of conduct and the ethics policy applies on everyone in the company without acceptations. Including contract workers, temporary workers who are engaged by the company or an agency, and also independent contractors workers who are representing the company.

It goes without saying that the code of conduct and the ethics policy represents the forms of sexual workplace harassment, what the penalties are for breaching that code and what the source of assistance is for dealing with sexual workplace harassment.  Every employee must be aware of the code, which means that it available in all spoken languages inside the company, that it’s read, understood and complied with. Integrity, transparency and trust are essential for making this or any other company policy meaningful.

Preventive policy

Nevertheless, these preventive policies, sometimes enforced by governments and recognized by law, have no meaning when management and stakeholders are not embedding this policy. sex-harass

And when you consider that among the offenders of sexual workplace harassment there often are people from management and stakeholder’s, it’s understandable that employees need a lot of insurance about the integrity and trust when they report to a source of assistance within the company.

Not only by the company itself but also by the government in the form of protection by law enforced by advocates and judges. For creating preventive action you need awareness and this means that the policy that must prevent and protect sexual workplace harassment from happening is well implemented. That all employees are trained on how to define, recognize, prevent and act on sexual workplace harassment.

In practice we often see that employees aren’t aware of the existence of such a policy because the employer didn’t share this document out of not knowing or not existing. A law for having these policies signed by employees enforces some companies for heaving a preventive protocol. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean that the policy is well implemented and all employees are properly trained on how to deal with sexual workplace harassment. Having a law for these preventive policies is only meaningful when they are well implemented and maintained.

Don’t nag too much it’s just a joke

Without a well-implemented policy employees will not be aware about what is meant by unwanted behavior because the existing rules are not shared and discussed. And a situation of sexual workplace harassment can be more easily approached as “it’s just a joke”.  Despite the existence of counselors, HR managers, complaint procedures and commissions, when a preventive policy is not implement nobody is fully aware of the fact that sexual workplace harassment will not be tolerated by the company and what the consequences are if they do. Bystanders will not know how to act when they witness cases of sexual workplace harassment, who to turn to without being afraid of losing their job.

Especially in cases in which the offender is a superior it’s very important that victims and bystanders are aware of the company policy concerning sexual harassment. And that they are being ensured that the harassment will not be dismissed as that so-called joke.

That this policy applies to all employees including management and stakeholders. Discussions with employees on unwanted behavior and sharing information will increase the awareness and importance on implementing the company policy. In some cases the offender intended to make a joke, but a well-implemented policy would make them understand that the experience of the receiver is what counts.

And with the help of a counselor or HR manager this behavior can be corrected before escalation. The content of a company policy preventing sexual workplace harassment must ensure employees that they are protected, it must encourage victims and bystanders to speak-up the occur harassment and it must discourage unwanted behavior by all employees. There are many examples available but its very important that companies, before they copy paste these examples, check if the policy is applicable for their organization. A good preventive policy is not just some document that wonders on the server or in someone’s desk draw it has to be adjusted to the organization, business, the different languages and the size of the company.

Hostile work environments are breeding grounds for offenders of sexual harassment

In the Netherlands the government developed a manual on sexual workplace harassment in such a copy paste manner. For example they missed out on the full description of all forms of sexual workplace harassment. The examples given for the sexual workplace harassment were based on women as a victim. No attention on how to recognize offenders of sexual workplace harassment. That sexual harassment has nothing to do with the way you look. No advice on how to approach sexual workplace harassment or the meaning of having a well-implemented company policy or what a hostile work environment contains. An under performance manual like this will have no positive effect.

A hostile work environment is the environment where an offender feels very comfortable in. Not having well-implemented company policies is one of ingredients for having that hostile environment because employees will not be aware of how to act on unwanted behavior and are more likely to think it’s better to keep their silence.

This deadly silence is needed for offenders to proceed in the sexual workplace harassment. So one of the major consequences for not having a well-implemented company policy is creating a breeding ground for sexual workplace harassment. And with creating this hostile work environment a company also creates contra productivity. So by having a well-implemented company policy, with integrity, transparency and trust a company protects not only it’s employees but ensures itself with building a good business.

The consequences of not having well-implemented policies is that unwanted behavior will be condoned or remain unpunished in any way because of the lack of awareness and the possible consequences for employees and the organizations.

IMG_2084Karin Bosman is Director of About Workplace Harassment (AWH), from Netherlands international speaker, experience expert and politically active on this topic for more than two years. Speaks from her experiences and studies to encourage people to speak and stand-up against sexual workplace harassment by acting on it. She tweets at @AboutHarassment


Next week How to recognize offenders of sexual workplace harassment.



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