How to identify and prevent harassment?

5. How can harassment be prevented?

The best way to prevent harassment, discrimination and bullying is to develop the organisation’s culture. In an open culture that is respectful of diversity, each member can participate in the activities as themselves. There are many ways to create this kind of an atmosphere.

The organisation can establish various operating methods and practices that support equality. The following are examples of these kinds of practices:

  • Establishing a position for a person in charge of equality in the organisation
  • Creating an equality plan
  • Drafting principles of safer space
  • Ensuring event safety

You need to regularly communicate about any action you have taken and ground rules you have created to all members of the organisation. You should also get the members to commit themselves to the shared equality action. Once your members understand the purpose of the activities and have got to participate in the process, you will be able to create a more permanent change in your operating culture. One-sided commands rarely manage to engage the entire community.

In addition to shared ground rules, organisations should pay attention to group formation and encourage their members to behave courteously. In organisational activities, you need to ensure that everyone is included in the activities equally. The responsibility for this lies especially with the organisation’s officials and board. Taking others into account is not difficult – it simply means greeting and thanking everyone and making sure they are included. For instance, if someone is sitting alone or keeping quiet for a long time, you can ask for their opinion or for them to take part in some activity.

How can an organisation’s internal processes help prevent harassment?

To facilitate the work of an organisation’s board and others involved in it, we recommend creating shared ground rules and operating methods that everyone agrees to follow. This clarifies the responsibilities of different people in the organisation and makes conflicts less likely. The operating methods can deal with some of the following questions, for instance:

  • How do you work in the organisation?
    • What are the organisation’s operating methods?
    • What are the organisation’s meeting practices?
    • What kind of areas of responsibility does the organisation have and how is work distributed among the people involved in it?
  • How do you communicate in the organisation?
    • When should people involved in the organisation be reachable?
    • When should they respond to messages?
    • By when should people involved in the organisation let others know that they will be absent or unable to attend?
  • How do you collect feedback in the organisation?
    • How and where do you collect the feedback?
    • How is the feedback processed?
    • How do you acquire feedback from members, the board and others involved in the organisation?

It is also important to set up a separate process for the organisation on how to deal with harassment situations and other inappropriate behaviour. Organisations often stress that they have zero tolerance for harassment and discrimination in their activities. However, proclaiming this means nothing in itself if there are not any concrete measures to support it. It is important for all members of the organisation to know how to take action against harassment and how they can report something they witness or experience. For this reason, the organisation must also have clear procedures on how to process such situations. You can read more on how to process the cases and on the processes themselves from the section Resolving harassment cases in organisations in this guide.