Is There a #MeToo Moment at Your Workplace? Here is What You Need to Do
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The #MeToo movement has finally hit the Indian shores with the social media now being bombarded with workplace harassment stories.
From some of the promising startups such as All India Backchod (AIB) to reputed companies like Tata Motors, none of these enterprises was able to come out clean. However, what is interesting to see how these companies are going to deal with accusation.
In AIB’s case, one of the accused and co-founder Tanmay Bhat was asked to setup down while the other Gursimran Khamba was asked to take a leave as the comedy production startup lost several of its high profile clientele such as Hotstar. In the past, even The Viral Fever’s (TVF) co-founder Arunabh Kumar was accused of workplace harassment and was asked to setup down. Since then, the company is struggling to get back to its glorious days.
The above cases are just the tip of the major problem in the Indian startup and corporate ecosystem and there many cases that are yet to be reported.
Having said that, if you have #MeToo moment in your office, as one of the senior management here is how you need to manage the situation.
Work Place Environment
Even though most of the companies have The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 or the POSH policy in place, the implementation of it is taken very lightly.
This is why entrepreneurs and the senior management of the team should ensure the office culture is developed in such a way the victims do not feel unsafe coming out.
Ishaan Sethi, CEO & Co-Founder, The Delta App says, “As a founder, I ensure my employees know they can talk to me about these things fearlessly, I ensure my team is aware of the fact that as an organization any unwelcome behaviour by an employee towards another will be met with commensurate consequences, including termination of employment based on the nature of discrimination or harassment.”
While on the other side, companies also consider building a place or platform for employees to reach out to the HR department more openly.
Jitendra Karsan, CEO of international pre-school chain Safari Kid shares, “More companies should provide such spaces for employees to voice their concerns well before it escalates to somebody being harassed - physically or mentally. The movement has led to strong steps being taken by companies in question and this is a positive change towards providing every member of the society to feel safer and equally worthy of opportunities.”
It takes immense courage to come out and speak out a traumatic experience such as sexual harassment or an assault. So, when the victim comes out with their story, it is necessary for the company to respect the moment and validate the situation.
Juhi Parmar, Psychologist & Outreach Manager, Mpower suggests the company management to give up on the conventional mindset acknowledge the incident rather the opting for ‘sweeping under the rug’ attitude
“The #MeToo movement has picked up and received attention only over the last few months – matters from years ago are equally traumatising. The fact they are coming out now is a result of the obvious that people are finally ready to listen. Ensure that the victim feels heard. Look into getting the victim professional help if required, since bringing up current or past trauma can trigger off a whole array of psychological symptoms,” she advises.
While on the other side, you cannot simply go ahead and fire the accused – it would be a pure injustice situation.
Take an example here from Tata Motors. The firm’s head corporate communication Suresh Rangarajan was accused of sexual misconduct and the automobile company sent him on leave till to allow an objective enquiry.
“When such an incident takes place, employers are obligated to set up an Internal Complaints Committee to investigate claims made, hear both sides of the story, review past records and deal with the matter with sensitivity and privacy,” Rahul Belwalkar, CEO, SecUR Credentials said while adding that, “While there is no report that can accurately predict an individual’s future behaviour, checking court records, social media, and psychometric and past employment records can help organizations avoid hiring unwanted elements.”
A sexual harassment case raises a lot of eyebrows not just within the organization but even outside the organization and chances are the that you will end losing a lot of clients and loyal customers. Which is why you need a clear communication strategy.
On the communications point of view, PR Consultant Rachna Baruah, who believes that it is the right time for organisations to put in stringent measures to help safeguard people and prevent such behaviour in the future, recommends entrepreneurs to speak from their souls.
“With the mood of the movement, standard PR statements have ceased to make a difference in pacifying audiences. What should instead come out are real voices and real accountability by brands and the clear iteration that just because a perpetrator held positions of power, does not reflect the company, its people or its ideologies at large,” she noted.