The Importance of Safe Spaces at Work

Workers generally feel that they need to be able to go to someone in the workplace for ‘safe space’.  It is especially important when that worker feels that there are unresolved issues between themselves and a manager. Harassment cases are just one example where these spaces are necessary.

In an article that appeared on the USA Today website, human resource expert, Johnny C. Taylor received a letter from a worker that brought this issue into focus.

The worker was invited by their HR manager to share any thoughts or concerns that they had about management at the company where they worked. The HR manager reassured the worker that they were in a safe space and that that they could speak freely with no fear of reprisal.  A short time later, that same worker was given a written warning about having misrepresented communications between themselves and their direct supervisor. As a direct result of the written warning in their file, they were denied a merit increase.

Contrary to what many people believe, what they share with HR may or may not stay confidential. If, in fact, the worker had made a misrepresentation of the actions of their supervisor, a written warning would be appropriate.  In the event of a sexual harassment case, however, it may also be important for the HR professional to share this information with others who will be assigned to investigating the matter further.

If you do decide to leave the company, HR most likely will ask you for an exit interview. Although it may be tempting to try to avoid the exit interview, it is likely that your soon-to-be former employer will want to know why you are choosing to leave. It is a good opportunity to give honest feedback and constructive comments. If you have concerns, share them in a concise and thoughtful way. If someone deserves praise, you can give it at this time; however, it is better to try not to approach it as the place to complain or get your last digs in as you are going out the door.

It is important for workers to understand that HR professionals at an organization are dedicated to ensuring the culture that exists within the company as a whole is preserved.  While it is never right to choose sides or to misrepresent just how confidential a confidential meeting actually is, HR is more likely there to serve the interests of the employer to a greater degree than they are for the worker. Legal situations that involve sexual harassment, however, are best discussed with an attorney that specializes in the area of employment law.