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Communicate Right: Keeping Your Team Safe Across Multiple Chat Channels

The growth of virtual communication has opened new channels for sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace. Microsoft Communication Compliance is a valuable way to keep tabs on inappropriate messaging, without invading your team members’ privacy or undermining their trust.

Since the start of the pandemic, chat channels like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Slack have become crucial tools in our everyday work lives. These channels are great because they let us talk in real time. But they also allow for asynchronous communication, meaning that you can start, end or pause the conversation whenever it suits you.

But obviously not every chat is going to be 100% about work. With remote and hybrid working now common, lots of people use chat to keep in touch with their colleagues socially. It’s like a virtual water cooler. And as long as it doesn’t cross boundaries or eat into productive time, it isn’t a problem. 

Over the line

However, it’s an unpleasant truth that – just like in-person interactions – workplace chats can be uncomfortable, inappropriate or offensive. And because this type of harassment often happens in private chats between two people who are working remotely, it can be harder to detect from the outside. Many workplaces haven’t yet updated their HR policies to adequately cover remote communication. 

It’s a serious problem, especially because remote workers are already more isolated and may not feel that they can access help when they experience sexual harassment or bullying. And many actions, such as screenshotting, can be done without their consent or even their awareness.

Of course, you don’t want to micromanage your employees or intrude into their private communications. We certainly don’t recommend that you do! Apart from anything else, if you don’t have a relationship of trust with your team members, then they are much less likely to come to you when they need support. And that lets the abusers win.

But it’s crucial to make sure that workplace harassers can’t get away with staying under the radar. If you’re a Microsoft 365 user, there’s an excellent tool at your disposal: Microsoft Communication Compliance.

Detect and report

Microsoft’s updated Communication Compliance feature rolled out this summer. This is a feature that monitors sent and received messages in Outlook, Teams and Yammer as well as other third-party channels. It applies a set of pre-defined policies to screen each message automatically. Any message that breaches these policies is sent to a team of reviewers. If they agree that there’s a problem, they will contact you within 60 minutes – a serious improvement on the previous version’s 24-hour processing time.

The advantage of a feature like this is that you don’t need to actively monitor your employees’ communications in order to keep an eye on their safety. You’ll only see those messages that have been marked and reviewed as inappropriate. The upgraded version also looks for patterns of inappropriate communication over time – an important refinement, because bullying and harassment are often subtle and ongoing. Your team can also self-report inappropriate messages, and they should be strongly encouraged to do so.

New technologies bring great benefits, but they bring their own problems, too. At Perigon One, we’re here to advise you on keeping your team safe while maintaining trust and openness. If you’d like to find out more about Communication Compliance, or find out how else we can work together, just contact us to schedule your free 15-minute consult.