Commit to a culture of respect
Company culture can be the greatest indicator of and influence on the prevalence of harassment in a workplace. A workplace culture that puts a premium on respect, diversity, equity, and inclusion often leads to fewer instances of harassment.
Individual employees can commit to championing a culture of respect at all times. For employers, making sure that employees are held accountable for negative behavior is paramount. You may also consider publicly acknowledging and rewarding individuals who go above and beyond in contributing to a positive and respectful work environment.
Implement policies and procedures
Clear policies are vital because they delineate what is, and what is not, acceptable behavior across all levels of an organization. Sexual harassment can be subtle actions as well as overt behaviors. Educating staff about the range of comments and actions that are inappropriate is an important step; all employees should understand that even seemingly small transgressions will not go unchecked. The AVMA has developed guidelines to help veterinarians create an employment policy to address harassment and discrimination.
Implementing straightforward procedures is also critical and should enable employees to easily report—and managers to quickly respond to—any instance of harassment. Another benefit of set procedures is that they can help keep you and your organization from falling into a frantic "crisis mode" if a situation arises that must be addressed.
Lead by example
A company's culture is indelibly linked to its leadership and relies heavily on whether its leaders "buy in to" the culture themselves. As a leader in your organization, it is especially important for you to model appropriate behavior and address when an employee is not adhering to company expectations.
Revamp your training
Training, as all veterinarians know, is an essential part of education. But experts believe that traditional sexual harassment trainings—which focus mainly on antidiscrimination laws and legal implications—aren't impactful. Instead, training should be a more holistic tool to help build the company culture you desire—one of respect and inclusion.
The most effective trainings are interactive and dynamic. They should be conducted on a regular basis for all employees and should address situations that are likely to arise in your specific work environment. You may consider offering team members the opportunity to anonymously submit scenarios for discussion, which they themselves have experienced. Bystander training also has been shown to be a particularly effective method of empowering employees to take action when they witness harassment.
Even the best policies are all but useless if they aren't enforced in a timely and meaningful way. When an organization enforces its harassment policies, it demonstrates upper management's commitment to creating a harassment-free environment where individuals will be held accountable for their behavior. It gives employees confidence that these policies and procedures will be upheld, too, should they ever need them.