In 20+ years in the human resources field I have faced my share of of complaints from disgruntled former employees. Most of these stemmed from supervisors and mid-level managers who lacked the interpersonal leadership skills required to communicate with, motivate, and provide employees with respect and dignity. That’s why providing supervisory, management and leadership development opportunities beats simply having a policy against discrimination. While there is no guarantee an employee won’t file a claim with the EEOC, following these five steps goes a long way in prevention:
- Have a written policy that establishes your organization’s position on treating all employees with respect and not tolerating discrimination or workplace harassment in any form.
- Train your supervisors and managers at all levels, not simply in the policy (which is the bare minimum). Go beyond training on the policy, and continuously develop supervisors and managers in the leadership and interpersonal communication skills needed to truly grow, develop, inspire, and motivate employees. Most supervisors and managers are promoted for technical strengths, not leadership strengths. Organizations then are frequently disappointed with these first-level and mid-level leaders. To help managers be successful, providing development opportunities that balance task management requirements with people relationship and leadership competency will go far in preventing disgruntled or upset employees.
- When a complaint is raised (usually internally first), take it seriously. Ensure that the employee who is upset or complaining feels heard. And close the loop with the employee when the investigation is complete, so they know something was done even if things don’t turn out exactly as the employee may have wanted he or she will appreciate that their concerns were taken seriously and acted upon.
- Investigate impartially and objectively. Ensure all sides of the issue are explored, and thoroughly document the outcome of the investigation for your records. This will mean a great deal of the leg-work will already be completed if an external complaint is filed with the EEOC.
- Finally, continuously work from the top of the organization throughout all levels to create and foster an environment of respect for every team member. Regardless of a person’s background, experiences, communication style, approach, and capabilities it is imperative to treat him or her with respect. All the diversity and inclusion programs are founded on this simple principle.