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How harassment impacts mental health, and what you can do about it.

Harassment, bullying, and discrimination are still prevalent in the workplace and did not end with the lockdown. Though restrictions are lifting, the toll of these three viruses on employee mental health is not. Awareness, however, is making a huge impact. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to shine a light on the good that is being done or can be done in your organization.

It’s a sign

The effects of harassment on an employee’s mental health can show up in many ways: decline in performance, poor attendance, disengagement, combative behavior, mental and physical illness, and even separation of employment. Some symptoms are more subtle and go undetected. Communication is more important than ever, especially with your remote employees. Check-in with each employee on a regular basis with a simple “How are you doing?” and “How can I help?”. Then listen! Make sure employees feel heard and supported. Work together to find suitable accommodations. If a claim of harassment is revealed or suspected, promptly investigate and follow-up with the employee on the outcome of the investigation.

Be an ally

“I don’t want to get involved.” “I’m afraid of retaliation if I come forward and report what I witnessed.” Have you ever had these thoughts? It may feel easier to stay quiet when you have been a witness to harassment or inappropriate behavior, but what if you were the one on the receiving end of the harassment? Would you want an ally to support you? In a previous post, we shared The 5 D’s of Bystander Intervention. By speaking up for those too fearful to do so on their own, you help prevent harassment from continuing in the workplace.

Take action

Employees should feel both physically and mentally safe at work. Taking steps to prevent harassment shows the employee that the organization is invested in their wellbeing. This starts by developing anti-harassment policies and procedures. Follow those up by training every person in the organization. Some states like Illinois, New York, and California require employers to conduct sexual harassment training every year.

One step further

Providing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a wonderful resource to give employees additional outlets to support their wellbeing. Check with your insurance providers to see what programs they offer. Other resources to consider might be offering a wellness benefit/stipend, modified schedule, additional time off, and volunteer opportunities.

Follow-up often

Regularly revisit your policies and procedures to ensure they are effective and up-to-date. As part of the onboarding process, have new hires attend sexual harassment training. Review the benefits you provide; are they being utilized by your employees or are there other options available? And as always, talk with your employees. Provide them with assistance as needed. Set calendar reminders to follow up with them on any action items.

A healthy workplace is free from harassment of any kind. By fostering an environment of open communication with your employees, providing them with the support they need, and educating them with anti-harassment training, you are creating that healthy workplace. At Define the Line, we are committed to helping your organization reach that goal. Email us at and let us know how we can support you.

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