Harassment in the workplace recently entered the public arena with the growth of the #MeToo movement. Believe it or not, these incidents occur at all levels and in all industries. Instead of acting as if it couldn’t happen to your company, you need to be prepared when a harassment report is filed so you can act immediately. If you aren’t sure of how to respond, follow these steps.

1. Don’t Hesitate to Schedule a Meeting

You don’t want the person filing the claim to feel as if they aren’t important or taken seriously. Make sure you immediately let them know it was received and schedule a time to meet to discuss what happened. When selecting a location, make it as private as possible, so the employee feels safe to talk about the incident in detail.

2. Control Your Emotions

While they’re talking, you want to empathize and let them know you understand why they’re upset. Before you have all the facts, however, you can’t sympathize because this can assign fault. You must conduct and conclude the investigation first.

Similarly, you have to remain neutral between both parties. No matter whom you believe, you can’t let your feelings get the best of the investigation. If you realize this is impossible for you, ask for someone else to step in.

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3. Use Your Meeting With the Employee Wisely

During your initial meeting, you want to make sure you’re gathering as many details as possible. This means listening intently and asking questions that take the story deeper. It might be uncomfortable, but you need to know every relevant detail as part of the investigation.

Don’t forget to discuss your company’s non-retaliation policy. This will help them feel heard and safe because they know no one will target them for their claim.

Finally, see if there’s anything you can do to help. This is offered to both sides of the claim should they experience increased stress or anxiety during the investigation. Employee Assistance Programs are available to make sure they get the proper aid.

4. Conclude Wisely

Don’t rush your investigation because you want to get it done. Remaining thorough is key to finding the correct conclusion. During the process, make sure you’re following up and letting the parties know when evidence was found for or against them.

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