The 4 Best Ways to Handle Harassment in the Workplace

The 4 Best Ways to Handle Harassment in the Workplace


I've worked at a number of different establishments over the years; from a college bar that served $5 dollar Bacardi pitchers on Thursdays to a restaurant helmed by a James Beard award-winning chef. And no matter where I worked, co-worker harassment was always something that reared its ugly head in some shape or form. It's unfortunate, but the reality is, there are many individuals that do not respect personal boundaries which causes everyone around them to feel uncomfortable. The #metoo movement has done a fantastic job in bringing to light the issues of harassment but there's still more that needs to be done. Follow below for a step by step guide to dealing with any type of harassment in the workplace.

Confront Them Immediately

This is easier said than done as many of our co-workers end up being our friends making calling someone out even harder. People are naturally inclined to please others, especially in the service industry, so calling out a co-worker for inappropriate behavior can be tough. You guys might hang out after work and you might have friends in common but you have to make them feel as uncomfortable for their behavior just as they made you feel. If you're triple seated or three-deep at the bar, you might not have an opportunity to confront them instantly but when that first lull arrives, take the opportunity to express your feelings to that person. If that lull never happens, then take action as soon as the shift ends. The key here is making sure that the offender does not leave his/her shift without some acknowledgement of their transgressions. Try to keep a level head and tell them who you feel without the use of profanity, if possible.

And, who knows? Maybe the person genuinely aren't aware of what they said/did and needs to be made aware of their actions. Working in this industry is hard enough and the last thing you need is to be harassed by a co-worker.

Document the Incident

Most quality establishments keep a log of "Incident Reports" and these are usually for events concerning guests. Implemented for legal reasons, the restaurant wants to make sure that if a guest decides to take legal action for whatever reason, the establishment will have a accurate account of what occured. Take a page from your employer's playbook and do the same for yourself. By documenting your own personal incidents, you are essentially preparing yourself for if/when you might have to take legal action against that individual, or even the restaurant itself, for their behavior. Documentation also serves as an important step in the healing process as it makes you recount the experience instead of burying it away in the recesses of your mind.

Tell other Co-Workers

Sharing your story with others helps to validate your experience. For some, telling others possibly helps to deal with any psychological pain caused by the incident. Coming forward with your story may even prompt them to come forward with an incident that they might have been withholding. The goal here is not to get people on your "side" through manipulation but to simply have your peers acknowledge that an incident has occurred.

A restaurant should be a familial atmosphere, so if a family member has been hurt, then the rest of the members should, at the very least, be aware of it. Note that restaurants/bars can be gossip havens so be prepared for your story to possibly get back to your offender.

Lastly, in the event that you do take legal action, you'll have individuals on who you can call on to corroborate your story if they choose.

Tell your Superior

All managers should be made aware of harassment that occurs at their establishment. The recent allegations against some top people in this industry makes it clear that some owners/managers aren't paying enough attention to co-worker relations as they should. And unfortunately, for many in this industry, there aren't any HR departments to which we can complain. Often times, the owner/manager is your HR department which can make telling them even more difficult, however, it is their job to know about any transgressions that happen in their business. It's also their responsibility to ensure that these incidents don't happen in the first place. Telling them puts the ball in their court and hold them accountable. 

Once you do tell your superior, don't just leave it at that. Demand that they give you a plan of action on how they intend to remedy the situation. Lastly, follow up with them afterwards. Don't think that telling them shifts all of the responsibility from yourself to them. In the end, no one will ever care about your feelings as much as you will.

As society becomes more tolerant, instances like the ones described above should became less prevalent. They should. But in reality, they still exist and it's helpful to know how to handle these situations if they should arise. The more that victims speak up and hold their offenders and bosses accountable, the closer we'll get to having truly safe and equitable workplaces.

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