Small businesses are essential to stimulating innovation and establishing close-knit communities in the quickly changing workplace of today. But as more people become aware of workplace harassment, it’s crucial for managers and owners of small businesses to know how to handle complaints successfully. The prosperity and reputation of the company depend on maintaining a safe and courteous workplace, in addition to the welfare of the workers.

What to do if you have received a complaint of a possible harassment?

  1. Take immediate action: Treat the complaint seriously and respond promptly. Small businesses often have closer-knit environments, so it’s important to address the issue swiftly to prevent further harm and maintain a healthy work atmosphere.
  2. Designate a point person: Identify a responsible individual, such as the owner, manager, or a trusted senior employee, who will oversee the handling of the complaint. This person should be trained in harassment policies and procedures or be willing to seek guidance from external resources if needed.
  3. Provide a safe environment: Ensure the complainant feels safe and supported throughout the process. Consider implementing temporary measures, such as adjusting work schedules or seating arrangements, to separate the parties involved, if necessary.
  4. Conduct a fair investigation: If the initial assessment indicates a need for further investigation, gather information by interviewing the complainant, the accused party, and any potential witnesses. Document the details of each interview and collect any relevant evidence.
  5. Seek external assistance if needed: If your small business lacks the resources or expertise to conduct an impartial investigation, consider seeking external help, such as a consultant or an HR professional. They can assist with conducting the investigation objectively and provide guidance on appropriate actions.
  6. Determine the appropriate action: Based on the investigation findings, assess whether the harassment occurred and whether it violates company policies or applicable laws. Consider the severity of the behavior and its impact on the complainant and the workplace.
  7. Take corrective measures: If harassment is substantiated, take appropriate action based on the severity of the situation and the available options. This may include providing counseling or training, issuing warnings, implementing disciplinary actions, or involving legal professionals if necessary.
  8. Communicate the outcome: Inform the complainant and the accused party about the investigation’s results, while maintaining confidentiality to the extent possible. Ensure the complainant is aware of the actions taken and reassure them of their safety. Address any concerns or questions they may have.
  9. Review policies and training: Use the incident as an opportunity to review and update your harassment policies and prevention training, if necessary. Ensure employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities and provide training to promote a respectful work environment.
  10. Monitor the situation: Keep a close eye on the situation to ensure that the harassment has ceased and that the complainant and other employees feel safe and supported. Consider periodic check-ins with the complainant to gauge their well-being and address any ongoing concerns.

Remember, it’s important to consult with legal professionals to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations. Additionally, creating a safe and respectful work environment is not only crucial for the well-being of employees but also essential for the success and reputation of the business.