Understanding the nature, antecedents and consequences of sexual harassment in SMEs is an important goal in itself. However, accumulating knowledge about this issue is also critical to the extent that it forms the basis for actions to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in these organizations, and reducing its negative consequences for employees. While we have deliberately pointed to the absence of data specific to sexual harassment in SMEs throughout the preceding discussion, we suggest that enough is known at this stage about the phenomenon of sexual harassment more generally, and about the unique organizational environments of SMEs, that several recommendations can be made that may benefit these organizations and their stakeholders.
Develop and Implement Policies, Procedures, and Practices to Limit Sexual Harassment in SMEs
Data from a variety of sources strongly suggest that the development and implementation of policies, procedures and practices for sexual harassment (e.g. codes of conduct, sexual harassment training, formalized grievance process) is a necessary first step for SME management, in reducing and preventing this form of victimization. Such policies, procedures and practices will not only directly influence the psychological climate for sexual harassment (i.e. employees’ perceptions of the organization’s tolerance for sexual harassment), but in turn, will impact employee behavior (e.g. discourage sexually harassing conduct, encourage positive coping behaviors and target reporting/bystander intervention), and indirectly influence employees’ feelings of being supported by the organization.
Nonetheless, while critical, it is also important to recognize that merely having such policies in place is not sufficient. Previous research also reveals that SME owners and senior leaders must essentially ‘practice what they preach’ when it comes to sexual harassment, publically demonstrating a commitment to the elimination of this issue, adequately communicating any policies, procedures and practices that have been implemented, and modeling appropriate behavior (Murry et al., 2001; Offermann and Malamut, 2002). Research by Adams-Roy and Barling (1998) also demonstrates the importance of procedural fairness in the way that policies, procedures and practices are enacted. In essence, it would seem that sexual harassment policies are only as good as the leaders who implement them, thus pointing to our second recommendation.