How to act in harassment situations
3. Processing harassment cases in organisations
3.3. How to deal with a person accused of harassment
- Take the person to the side. Stay as calm as possible and avoid conveying any kind of attitude even if you have just heard that the person has done horrible things. If it is not possible to have a calm discussion immediately after the incident due to the person being upset or drunk, for instance, remember to get back to the matter as soon as possible, the next day, for instance.
- The person does not necessarily realise that they have done something wrong. Tell or remind them about the principles in use in the organisation or event.
- Give any feedback in a constructive manner. If the behaviour is not unambiguously or objectively wrong, do not accuse the person or claim that they have done something. Explain how their behaviour can be interpreted as wrong or harmful or how it has distressed another person. Focus on the person’s actions and behaviour, not on them as a person. Stress that the other party’s subjective experience is genuine even if the person meant no harm.
- Offer advice and support on how the person could improve their behaviour. You can, for instance, offer tips on how the person could stay at the event without causing any further distress to others. It is important that, after your discussion, the person understands what aspect of their behaviour was considered inappropriate. The person can only change their behaviour through understanding. After your discussion, you can assume that the person knows how they should not behave.
- If the person continues to behave inappropriately, it is advisable to remove them from the event. We recommend contacting them afterwards to discuss what happened.
You should deal with the person accused of harassment constructively and without making accusations to ensure that you are able to build a mutual understanding of what happened and of desirable behaviour for the future through cooperation instead of producing further conflict. Allowing people to learn from their mistakes and change their ways is important to ensure that the person accused of harassment is not automatically branded for their behaviour.