Complex matter for employers to tackle workplace harassment

Differences in character are largely the cause of harassment between individuals in a competitive workplace environment.

Often, the main source of work-related stress and unhappiness does not pertain to the work itself but our relationships with others, or may stem from within us.

Hence, it is impossible to have a harmonious coexistence with all our colleagues, and taking the matter up with employers should be the last avenue of redress ("'Onus on employers' to fight harassment"; Dec 24).

While harassment issues can become more challenging if employees have to operate in a hostile workplace and fight battles all the time, it is best for employees to develop inner strength and resist approaching their bosses if they can help it.

If an employee is seriously harassed on repeated occasions, he should first consult his lawyer or call the police, because managing inter-personal relations of staff should not be the employer's responsibility.

If companies choose to crack down on people having a bit of a laugh or indiscretion at work, the extra time and expenses would make the firm uncompetitive and give the impression to potential recruits that their outfit would be a joyless place to work in, where everybody is obsessively monitored and subject to intrusive surveillance.

Who, then, would want to work in such an Orwellian environment?

At the end of the day, workers are not schoolchildren. If they are being bullied or harassed at work, they cannot go to their employers like they did in school by complaining to their teachers.

In working life, they must learn to deal with such issues like adults.

The acid test is whether a reasonable person knows or ought to know whether an action would be considered unwelcome or inappropriate by the recipient.

Employers are not legally trained, and it is best to leave that task to the police. This is because employers cannot properly address employee complaints without first understanding our law and penal code as well as what constitutes harassment and bullying.

Because harassment can be a grey area and because it can differ on a case-by-case basis, there must be a standard policy on discipline, depending on the circumstances.

We also must acknowledge that office romance is common in the workplace.

How would employers handle a romance that turns sour, with either party using that as a pretext to lodge a harassment complaint?

Such a situation is the last thing a boss would think of getting entangled in.

Francis Cheng