Every once in a while, a story comes along that shocks the world and makes it realize how interconnected we all truly are. For instance, in August 2019, researchers at the Stanford University published a shocking study about the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in open source communities.
The study, which was based on more than 40,000 GitHub user’s confidential data, found that more than one in five men reported being sexually harassed, and one in four women reported experiencing some form of sexual misconduct.
What’s more, the study showed that the probability of being sexually harassed increases by more than 50% when you enter a popular GitHub repository (with more than 500 stars).
This is precisely why all software vendors, including VPN providers, must take sexual harassment and assault in the workplace seriously. It’s not enough to have a “zero tolerance policy” towards sexual misconduct; you must really mean it.
Sadly, too many companies choose to remain silent about sexual harassment and assault, preferring to sweep such complaints under the rug rather than engage with the complainant about the issue. It’s a bit of culture rot that must be stopped. Especially considering how many successful companies were started by a female founder (47% of the most visited websites are owned by women).
A Growing Trend Of Contracting Out
These issues aren’t new and companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Microsoft have all been involved in scandals over the past few years. What’s more, people have been contracting out more of their jobs to independent contractors as businesses have grown and become more efficient. As a result, it’s become common for employees to have fewer interactions with their superiors as they’re expected to be able to handle most everything independently.
While this may be efficient in terms of getting the job done, it can lead to a lot of trouble if not handled correctly. One of the biggest problems is the lack of oversight and monitoring that occurs as a result of contractors being autonomous. This can lead to a situation where an employee or contractor is performing above or below expectations, which can result in a permanent position being filled to compensate for under-performance or to prevent an inefficient operation.
One of the best things that organizations and corporate entities can do for their employees is to create a safe and inviting environment. If there’s even the slightest chance that a hostile work environment could arise, then efforts must be made to create a feeling among employees that their concerns will be heard and that the organization genuinely wants to improve. This is a lot more difficult when the people charged with creating the environment are independent contractors who are only accountable to their own clients.
To create the safest possible working environment for their employees, companies must take the following three steps:
Train Your Employees Properly
Even if your employees work remotely, it’s important to set the proper working environment in advance to reduce the possibility of misconduct. This means that you must train your employees as to what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in the workplace. It’s also important to provide them with guidelines as to how they should behave if they experience or witness any kind of sexual misconduct. This can range from what they should do to report the misconduct to having a zero tolerance policy towards such behavior in the first place.
If you’ve ever worked in an office, then you may be familiar with the concept of an “HR rep.” This is someone who’s job it is to ensure that your needs are met as an employee, and to provide support if you’re experiencing any problems. In the same way, you should have someone who you can turn to if you’re experiencing any problems, whether you’re an employee or a contractor. This could be someone in a supervisory role, or it could be a coworker who you feel comfortable enough to talk to about your concerns. Ensure that your HR rep is someone who you feel confident will listen to you and provide you with a safe space to air your grievances. A large part of creating a safe and open atmosphere is having someone you can trust to hear your side of the story and to offer support if you’re experiencing problems.
Regularly Monitor Performance
Just because your employees are independent contractors doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to monitor their work. It’s important to be aware of their productivity so that you can ensure they’re meeting your expectations. This can be difficult if you’ve never dealt with an independent contractor before and if you’re not familiar with how they operate. For this reason, you should set up a system that will monitor their productivity and provide you with regular reports regarding how much they’ve accomplished. Some freelancing platforms, such as Upwork, provide detailed metrics regarding the performance of individual contractors. These platforms can be pretty useful in ensuring that you’re getting your money’s worth, as well as providing you with objective data regarding the performance of individual contractors. It may be difficult for you to judge the quality of work based solely on the face value of the deliverable, especially if you’ve never worked with the contractor before.
Take Appropriate Action
As a general rule, when a situation arises regarding sexual harassment or assault in the workplace, the best policy is to be decisive but not hasty. It’s never easy to decide what action to take in such a situation, but it’s a good idea to consider what would be the most appropriate thing to do. For example, if you’re in an independent contractor relationship with a company and the contractor delivers a satisfactory product, it may be beneficial to the organization for you to stay silent regarding the issue.
If, however, you’re not satisfied with the work being delivered and you have evidence that the contractor is not living up to your expectations, then you have the legal right to be compensated. In this case, it may be best to inform the contractor that their services are no longer needed and that you’ll be taking steps to replace them. In an ideal world, this would involve a smooth transition where the contractor is provided with ample time to find new work and where they’re not left in desperate circumstances. This will depend on the specifics of the case but, in general, it’s a good idea to try to keep contractors satisfied with the work they produce.
Even when dealing with contractors, it’s essential to keep things professional at all times and to ensure that you’re behaving in a dignified manner. While you might be tempted to let your guard down and be completely open with the contractor, this can often lead to your personal details being compromised and for you to be put in an uncomfortable situation. When interacting with your contractor, it’s important to behave in a mature and professional manner and to ensure that you’re both maintaining a good working relationship. This is no easy task, but it’s vital to the success of your endeavor if you want to keep your personal details private and prevent any kind of misconduct in the first place.
Ensuring that your employees are well trained, have proper oversight, and that you’re regularly monitoring their productivity is pretty much essential if you want to create a safe and stable environment for yourself and your employees. While independent contractors can be a great addition to any organization, it’s important to remember that they’re still employees who should be treated with the respect and dignity that you’d provide to any other employee in your organization.