Creating a workplace culture of zero tolerance for sex harassment

Posted in Sexual Harassment on July 20, 2015

Although California laws require anti-sexual-harassment training in many workplaces, that doesn’t mean the training is equal or equally effective at any given company. Some companies go by the book, meaning that they treat anti-harassment training as an unwanted exercise done solely for the purposes of legal compliance. When company officials treat the prevention of sexual harassment like an annoying chore, what message do you think that sends to employees?

Other companies take a vigorous approach to anti-harassment training; one that goes above and beyond legal compliance. Whether we realize it or not, every workplace has a culture. And company officials who want to positively shape that culture can do so by making the prevention of sexual harassment a priority issue.

This sentiment was echoed in a recent article in Forbes. The author, Liz Ryan, noted that sexual harassment is one of those “sticky” topics that are uncomfortable to discuss in the workplace. Nevertheless, it is a topic that must be discussed clearly, openly and often. Moreover, the message should not be delivered impersonally by a human resources representative. Whenever possible, it should be delivered by the CEO. If the boss cares about an issue, chances are that everyone else will too.

Ryan also says that most companies make the mistake of assuming that a sexual harassment issue will be brought to the attention of company leaders before things get out of hand. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Bosses and managers who fail to pay attention to what’s going on with their employees are often shocked when the company is sued for failing to address sexual harassment complaints.

Promoting the importance of anti-harassment training is not simply about avoiding legal liability. Every workplace has a culture. And if that culture permits or tacitly endorses sexual harassment, productivity and morale suffer, colleagues cannot work together and no one enjoys coming to work.

Source: Forbes, “How To Prevent Sexual Harassment,” Liz Ryan, July 16, 2015