How Small Business Owners Can Shut Down Workplace Abuse

photo by TheStandingDesk on Unsplash

Although recent years have seen the emergence of a heightened awareness of workplace abuse, it continues to be a problem plaguing countless businesses. For the sake of employee well-being and reputation management, every small business owner should make shutting down workplace abuse one of their foremost priorities. So, if you’re interested in fostering a safe work environment for all of your team members, put the following pointers to practical use.   

Educate Your Workforce 

To help ensure that your entire team is on the same page with regard to workplace abuse, make a point of educating them on various forms of abuse – and the consequences they entail. This will help ensure that perpetrators are unable to plead ignorance and that there is no ambiguity when it comes to the kinds of behavior that constitute workplace abuse. If you aren’t experienced in public speaking and/or education, it may be a good idea to enlist the aid of motivational speakers. For example, if your business is primarily focused on technology, a speaker who’s knowledgeable about women in tech is liable to prove tremendously helpful. 

Encourage Victims to Come Forward 

There are a variety of reasons why victims of workplace harassment are hesitant to come forward. For starters, they often fear retaliation on the part of the abuser and/or people protecting the abuser. If the abuser is someone who has some degree of authority over the victim, they may retaliate in the form of increased workloads, heightened scrutiny, or enhanced abuse. Additionally, if the abuser is a person who’s generally well-liked, they may subtly – or not-so-subtly – encourage other team members to ostracize the victim. As a result of such treatment, the victim may become increasingly miserable at work, retract their allegation or opt to quit.

To help ensure that victims aren’t afraid to come forward, make it clear that all abuse allegations will be treated with the utmost seriousness and thoroughly investigated, regardless of how well-liked an alleged perpetrator is or how important they are to the business. Furthermore, encourage victims to report any retaliation they’re subjected to in response to making allegations. No workplace can be free of abuse if victims are afraid to come forward and perpetrators are able to bully their accusers.   

Impose Strict Consequences on Abusers 

If an investigation reveals that a member of your team is indeed guilty of abuse, it is your responsibility to impose the necessary consequences. Depending on the nature, severity, and duration of the abuse, consequences can range from unpaid suspension to the filing of legal charges. Allowing abusers to get off with a warning or a slap on the wrist sets a terrible example and provides would-be abusers with little incentive to behave themselves. Furthermore, failing to punish abusers effectively disenfranchises victims and makes them less likely to come forward in the future. 

Refusing to impose consequences on abusers can also reflect poorly on your business. For one thing, if you develop a reputation for being soft on abusers, you’re likely to see immense damage done to your professional reputation. In addition, going easy on abusers may open you up to a host of legal consequences.

image by Adobe Stock

Thoroughly Screen Prospective Hires 

Thoroughly screening prospective hires is among the best ways to keep your workplace free of abusers. For example, if an applicant has a history of abuse and/or harassment, they should immediately be taken out of the running, regardless of how impressive their qualifications are. So, if your current screening process leaves a lot to be desired, now would be the time to step things up. Additionally, if you lack the time or expertise to properly screen candidates, simply enlist the aid of a dependable screening service. 

Even with more and more employers becoming aware of workplace abuse and its adverse effects, it remains a problem for countless members of the workforce. Although abuse in the workplace can be fairly obvious, this isn’t always the case – and some abusers are able to fly under the radar for years. Since it is incumbent upon every employer to create a safe workspace for employees, shutting down abuse should be a major priority for every business owner. In the interest of creating a work environment that’s free of abuse, take the pointers outlined above to heart. 


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