Sexual Harassment, Misconduct and Interpersonal Boundaries

The workplace is a complex dynamic, and central to the that is interpersonal relationships created in or because of them.  Difficulties emerge in workplaces where interpersonal interest, intentions and boundaries do not align.  This can manifest in uncomfortable exchanges, people feeling left out or excluded, bullying behaviour, and unfortunately, at the more serious end of the spectrum, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. 

Take, for example, the swift, interoffice romance that soured quickly where one person remains interested and continues to pursue their colleague.   Or the workplace where the employee with 25 years service has been complimenting reception staff on their appearance for the entire time, but your enthusiastic CEO wants a zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy!  Careful thought and design need to go into the development, training and delivery of resources to prevent sexual harassment. 

Sexual harassment, by definition, can include a wide range of things:

  • unwelcome comments intended to be compliments
  • invitation to date
  • offensive sexualised remarks
  • unwelcome physical contact
  • solicitation of sexual favours
  • conduct that may warrant Police involvement because it may be capable of amounting to assault or sexual assault

It can range from an unintended, unfortunate consequence of misaligned interest, right up to contrived, deliberate acts of sexual misconduct. 

Positive obligations on employers to prevent sexual harassment now mean that managers need systems to prevent and address sexual harassment in a meaningful, ongoing way. 

Weir Consulting (National) (WEIR) approaches this difficult area in a wholistic way.  WEIR’s multifaceted process involves a triage and then tailor approach to preventing and managing inappropriate workplace behaviours.   This includes responsive reporting and management support structures. 

Weir can:

  1. Provide training on self-regulation and appropriate workplace behaviour, emphasising the need to drive change and target entrenched behaviours and historical acceptance. People need to be mindful of the complexities of power and romantic attachments in the office environment, with strategies to manage those unique forces;


  1. Guide and support you to identify and characterise unwelcome behaviour in your organisation


  1. Triage and recommend best practice concerns management


  1. Safely identify and provide early, informal resolution of interpersonal communication, tolerance misalignment and misinterpreted interactions where possible to minimise damage


  1. Develop systemic intervention, coaching and critical group training when a complaint does not require formal escalation, but remedial control and redirection are essential


  1. Identify options and recommended progressions for complainants at the more serious end of the spectrum, including immediate escalation of serious complaints that may amount to alleged sexual misconduct or provision of helpful, informative resources for criminal or other referral


  1. Capture accurate, probative records and other details/evidence and assist with formulating particulars for behaviours of concern following the principles of procedural fairness. Allegations are only made when there is sufficient prima facie evidence, and a full and proper opportunity to respond can be provided.


  1. Investigate matters that are serious or incapable of resolution. Critical to progression is satisfactory evidence and particulars to support the making of conduct allegations against a subject.

Our hybrid systems can include anonymous data capture and a framework that encourages staff who come forward and report concerns and supports and protects those that do. 

If you need assistance designing sexual harassment policy and procedure that meets the new positive obligations on workplaces, please contact our sexual harassment unit.  WEIR can assist with policy development, training, complaint review and handling, provision of anonymous reporting services and other scheme designs to suit high-risk workplaces.  This includes specialised training in workplaces where convention and tradition have tolerated or even encouraged low-level sexual harassment.

Contact Amanda Harvey, Director or Nia Elovaris, Senior Consultant, on (02) 8379 1298 or 1300 / 934 726 or for further information and co-ordination of AWARE services.