How to act in harassment situations

In this chapter, we will deal with harassment cases and present some instructions on how to process the situations. We will first go through instructions for those who have experienced harassment and for those accused of harassment. After this, we will explain how organisations can process harassment situations.

3. Processing harassment cases in organisations

3.5. Discussion between the parties

A discussion between the parties may, in a best-case scenario, help with the resolution the situation and increase the parties’ understanding of each other’s perspectives. However, discussions are not suitable for all harassment situations. For instance, long-term bullying requires strong expertise to deal with the situation, while organisations cannot get into investigating suspected criminal activity.

You can use this outline as support:

  1. Prepare for the discussion:
    • Ensure that the meeting is held in a quiet place and that you have reserved enough time for processing the matter.
    • Ensure that both parties know about the common rules of the discussion in advance and are ready to commit to them.
      • The discussion is confidential. It is not discussed with external parties.
      • The goal is to help the parties understand each other better and to support them with finding solutions. The discussion is not meant for continuing the conflict.
      • The mediator does not provide ready-made solutions or hand out sanctions to either party. Their role in the discussion is that of an impartial facilitator.
      • Participation is voluntary, and the discussion may be cut short if the parties so wish.
      • The mediator hands out turns to speak. The other party should not be interrupted. All discussion must be civil.
      • If needed, both parties may bring one support person with them. However, it is important to clearly define the support person’s role. They may be present but may not participate in the discussion or comment on it.
  2. When the event begins, remind everyone once more of its purpose and the common rules for it.
  3. Discuss the following themes:
    • What happened?
    • How did it feel? What did you think of what happened?
    • Who have been affected by what happened and how?
    • What would be a good solution to the situation?
  4. Try to steer the discussion forward if it seems to stall. Ask questions that cannot be answered by a simple yes or no.
  5. Make sure that both parties get to speak as much as the other.
  6. At the end, you can agree on a common solution that includes concrete promises on changing the situation.
  7. Also agree on a way to monitor the situation with the parties by, for instance, promising to ask both parties how everything has gone and whether they have stuck with the solution within a couple of months.