Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Stopping Sexual Harassment In Its Tracks!
As the media continues to spotlight sexual harassment, a higher awareness is showing up in corporate boardrooms, offices and workrooms. Add to this, mandated sexual harassment training legislation, like that recently passed in California, and the path to preventing bad sexual conduct at work is rolling. But, is it enough to stop it from happening? It’s too early to tell, but at least it’s a start.
One has to remember, sexual harassment is a long-term, pervasive problem. Despite the new awareness and training requirements, there is a general feeling that companies continue to have a knee-jerk reaction to sexual harassment complaints, i.e., admit nothing or cast doubt on the victim. As long as these attitudes survive, sexual harassment is not likely to come to a screeching halt.
Preventing Sexual Harassment – Training
Comprehensive sexual harassment training of all employees and managers may help the workforce recognize when behavior is wrong and what to do about it. Research has determined that educating workers will be most effective when:
• Training is encouraged and, by example, endorsed and taken by all senior leaders.
• Training is repeated regularly (Sexual harassment prevention training is required to be taken every 2 years by the State of California, although nothing prohibits workers taking it annually for good measure).
• Training is provided at every level. (We provide an employee course as well as this management training).
Training can also point out that just about everyone is personally liable for bad behavior, like sexual harassment, at work. So, through training, employees, managers and owners alike will know they have skin in the game . . . a good motivator for change.
Also known to human resource experts, companies that implement strong anti-harassment policies and complaint systems . . . both big sticks . . . are likely to have better success with prevention, but only if employees are aware of them . . . another vital role for training.
A Culture Thing
Experts predict that when the entire culture around sexual harassment changes, the most significant progress in preventing it will be realized. Right now, we’re in a “mandated mode”. Facing many new laws and potential liabilities, companies are quick to condemn the messenger (State and Federal Lawmakers) or even their own human resources department. The hope that prevention of workplace harassment can be viewed as something friendly with benefits. Until then, sexual harassment complaints will be just another thing to clog up the wheels of success and a costly, unnecessary expense. It’s still a giant bummer.
Changing Workplace Culture
Workplace attitudes about sexual harassment are not likely to change after a one-time harassment training session. A more comprehensive approach, where the tone is set by example from the top down, is more likely the solution. Here are some suggestions:
• Acknowledge employees, managers, supervisors who create a culture in which harassment is not tolerated.
• Create and maintain an environment in which employees feel comfortable reporting harassment to management.
• Periodically direct staff to test the complaint system to determine if complaints are received and addressed properly.
• Conduct anonymous employee surveys on a regular basis to assess whether harassment is occurring, or is perceived to be tolerated.
• Use written or verbal communications on anti-harassment policies that are clear, and easy to understand.
• Translate anti-harassment and reporting policies in to all languages commonly used by employees.
• Periodically review and update anti-harassment and reporting procedures.
• Provide multiple avenues of complaint, such as various levels personnel who can respond, written options (email, text, chat options), etc.
• Provide voluntary, alternative dispute resolution choices where parties can air and resolve differences.
Ultimately, shifts in cultural attitudes towards sexual harassment may be the most valuable tool in combating it. The answer lies in creating a shared sense of public responsibility and accountability.
Not So Easy For Some
A propensity for sexual harassment is often linked to certain industries, especially where men greatly outnumber women. The United States Military, for example, will have more of a problem than the typical private company. Here, additional measures may need to be instituted to prevent bad sexual conduct like:
• Anonymous help lines
• Focus groups and procedures to reduce harassment and retaliation
• Zero Tolerance
Training is now required in California for businesses with 5 or more employees. Get compliant with out Sexual Harassment Prevention Training course for employees and managers now!