Creating an inclusive workplace doesn’t simply fall on the shoulders of Human Resources (HR) alone. It is the collective responsibility of everyone in an organization. A report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) titled Exploring the costs of bullying and sexual harassment to business in Myanmar found that 15% of employees have been sexually harassed, and 21% witnessed sexual harassment. Further, 40% have been bullied at work, and 56% reported seeing bullying at the workplace. Beyond the moral implications of these findings, the net result of these harmful actions is a 14% annual loss of labor productivity.
In partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Diversity Collective Lanka (DCLK) recently launched the Creating Respect & Dignity in the Workplace program. The program aims to help Sri Lankan organizations recognize and address different forms of violence & harassment in the workplace. Already, six organizations have taken the lead by participating in the program, with more expected to join in the coming months.
What is Creating Respect & Dignity in the Workplace?
“Creating an inclusive workplace starts with ensuring you have created a work environment that fosters mutual respect. This process starts with how we act and react to what we see and hear in our company and community,” explains Vice President of Diversity Collective Lanka, Bani Chandrasena, describing the base thinking behind the Creating Respect & Dignity in the Workplace program.
The program consists of a series of workshops covering the role of an organization and its stakeholders when encountering bullying and harassment in the workplace. Organizations are also provided with templates and guidance on the process of drafting policies and setting up procedures to deal with harassment and bullying. The program also includes active training strategies such as role-play to help participants identify and act against bullying and harassment incidents. This includes bystander interventions where witnesses are trained to take action against bullying behavior.
Furthermore, stakeholders are trained in addressing complaints in an effective and sensitive manner. “The push from this program is for companies to recognize they are responsible for the spaces they create. Of course, policies are important, but we must also look at what the general bystander can do to address these situations positively,” adds Natalie de Niese from the DCLK leadership team.
The importance of inclusion
As society looks toward improving inclusion and female participation in the labor market, it is essential to ensure inclusive workspaces. Many organizations have introduced policies for dealing with bullying and harassment. However, implementation takes buy-in from company leadership and effort from HR. This leads to a culture of accountability “The gender jokes and racist jokes casually being thrown around is where such problematic behavior starts,” says Emesha Jayawardena-Pinto, President of DCLK giving examples from a Sri Lankan context.
These behaviors are often accepted as a part of the work culture, which highlights the need for initiatives on inclusion like Creating Respect & Dignity in the Workplace program to help employees empathize with colleagues from diverse backgrounds. The program helps organizations to reevaluate their work culture and create a safe, productive environment where all employees can thrive.
‘Violence and harassment in the workplace negatively impact business operations. It affects employee well-being leading to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and increased costs associated with employee turnover and security. Organizations that actively address violence in the workplace can increase their business value through creating workplaces that are safe and inclusive,’ said Sarah Twigg, Manager of the IFC-DFAT Women in Work Program, speaking of the need for programs like Creating Respect & Dignity in the Workplace.
Ultimately, taking such responsibility to build inclusive spaces has real tangible benefits. For example, organizations that take such steps report being able to better attract and retain skilled talent. Thereby ensuring higher levels of productivity. Initiatives on inclusion such as the Creating Respect & Dignity in the Workplace program help organizations of all sizes get started. In the coming months, DCLK and IFC are set to conduct one training session per quarter in 2022. For more information contact [email protected].