Conflict Resolution, Training

The Hidden Cost of Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace

It’s not uncommon for workplace banter to cross the boundaries of company policy. When it does, most employees probably won’t be lined up at your HR manager’s door to file a complaint. Just because your employees aren’t voicing their concerns doesn’t mean your organization is immune to the problem. The ramifications can be costly to those organizations which fail to offer harassment and discrimination training, but instead rely solely upon the judgment of their employees to know company policy and appropriate behavior.

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In 2016, the EEOC investigated over 91,503 charges of workplace discrimination, an increase of over 5,000 from the previous year. Of those cases investigated, over $482 million were awarded in damages. Unfortunately, these statistics fail to tell the whole story including how many incidents go unreported each year and what that cost is to an organization’s bottom line.

Four Hidden Costs of Harassment and Discrimination

1.) Lost Diversity: While cohesiveness is an excellent goal for any team to achieve, it is important to understand how you got there. Is your team in sync because they share mutual respect and shoulder equitable amounts of responsibility or because there is little to no diversity among the group?

Quantifying the benefit that diversity brings to your organization may sound lofty, but the results are often tangible. Teams comprised of diverse groups encourage creative strategies and problem-solving techniques. In today’s competitive marketplace, few businesses can afford to come in second place against their competition.

2.) Employee Absence: Even though many employees fail to file formal grievances, statistics show that repeated exposure to such stress results in lost work days and lower productivity. For those organizations running a lean staff, the loss or diminished productivity of one individual only creates added work for the remaining team members. Regardless of who suffers the brunt of harassment or discrimination, your entire team is likely paying the price.

3.) High Turnover: Left unaddressed and unchecked, harassment and discrimination eventually lead to permanent talent loss. Just as the targeted employee is not the problem, their departure is not the solution. Acquiring new talent is a steep price to pay in response to a problem that will likely repeat itself when considering the cost of hiring, onboarding, and training new employees.

4.) Lost Market Share: With the explosion of social media, organizations failing to address or choosing to ignore inherent problems of harassment and discrimination may scramble to publicly explain such poor judgment. Consumers, now more than ever, are choosing to exercise their purchasing power as a way to stand against unacceptable behavior. Winning back this type of lost customer can be an expensive and difficult task.

So what can organizations do to avoid such costly mistakes? First, raise awareness through both internal policy and periodic education. Don’t assume your employees know what is acceptable. Train them to avoid the behaviors that lead to potential problems. Second, take every complaint seriously and do your research. Organizations which enforce their policy and set forth clear procedures reduce exposure and may minimize punitive penalties even if litigation ensues. Third, ensure that leadership sets the example. Embracing diversity and equality benefits the overall culture and health of any organization. To learn how you can raise awareness through education reach out to one of our dedicated team members. We are here to help you avoid the hidden costs of harassment and discrimination.