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    Fighting back against sexual harassment in the dental industry

    How to identify, handle and combat sexual harassment in the workplace.


    Prevention and reaction: Two ways to stop sexual harassment

    There’s a place and time for both preventative training and confrontation. As an HR solution provider, I am always in favor of getting the practice trained, especially if you or any team members notice questionable comments or actions. Training may guide a dental team toward self-correction—if it’s paired with good leadership and some frank discussions. And if you’re a manager and you’ve seen warning signs or had an issue brought to your attention, this is sometimes your one chance to prevent an even more serious situation from developing.

    A good conversation might start like this: “Lately, I’ve noticed what I think are some inappropriate actions or comments that could be called sexual harassment, so I’m putting mandatory training in place. Each employee—men and women—has until Friday to complete it. Please clock your hours.” The manager might conclude with something like, “I am hoping this will help everyone identify when comments or actions might not be appropriate.”

    This may be enough to steer some teams into safer waters. It also provides the manager with a platform for addressing future problematic behaviors (“We just made it clear that this is NOT OKAY,” or, “What part of that training did you not get?!”), and is an easy path to issuing warnings and terminating if necessary.

    If harassment is happening to (or around) you, the second method available is intervening on your own behalf—a reactionary method rather than a preventative one. By intervening, I mean speaking up to a manager or the harasser, and clearly stating that it is not okay.

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    What if the harasser is your manager? If there is another manager, go to them. Be specific about the problem and which behavior needs to stop.

    Here are some examples:

    ·       “I’d like him to stop showing me inappropriate pictures.”

    ·       “I’d like him to stop putting his hands on my shoulders.”

    ·       “I’d like you to tell her that it makes me uncomfortable when…”

    ·       “I need the sharing about over-the-weekend sexual exploits to stop.”

    ·       “This email contains a joke I just don’t need in my life.”

    When reporting inappropriate conduct, first you must follow any written grievance policy your office may have in place. Failure to do so may limit your options or remedies down the road. In addition, it helps to be specific as to what outcome you would like to see. Maybe you just want the behavior to stop. Perhaps you feel a written warning to the harasser would be a more effective deterrent of future harassment. Some situations warrant an apology. Other times, more serious responses are in order, such as a transfer, change in scheduling, or even a termination. 


    Next: What if you are in a small-practice situation and the harasser is in a position of authority? 


    Paul Edwards
    Paul Edwards is the CEO and Co-Founder of CEDR HR Solutions (www.cedrsolutions.com), which provides individually customized employee ...


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