It’s been said “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” for people in the public spotlight.
Raise your hand if you disagree. Good.
From politicians to headliner comedians; from media icons to corporate founders, inclusion on the Naughty List of Sexual Harassment will bite back with instant career venom.
When allegations are proven, harassers must be held accountable and suffer consequences that fit the deed. But these bad actors don’t operate in silos; they’re typically employed within some form of organizational system, which itself becomes subject to intense scrutiny, sometimes before the headlines even break.
Most companies adopt preventive measures for protecting employees from harassing and hostile work environments ‑ policy statements are included in employment handbooks, some form of harassment training is mandated, a process may be designed for reporting concerns. Yet, despite decades of harassment awareness and prevention tactics, employees today are still subjected to creepy, unwelcome, and illegal behaviors from co-workers, bosses, even vendors and clients.
Social awareness through movements like #MeToo and broad media coverage have emboldened victims to finally emerge from the shadows and share their experiences publically. Simultaneously, proactive employers are playing offense by analyzing their existing processes, doubling-down on resources and reinforcing internal policies as a preventive measure to ensure their workplaces remain free from harassment of all kinds.
PROGRESSIVE HARASSMENT PREVENTION STRATEGIES
Test Your Culture. Beyond legal and legislative requirements, there is no single organizational standard for cultural behaviors and norms. Entrepreneurial start-ups run fast and loose seeking growth; family-owned businesses thrive from nurturing close internal relationships; global entities have traditions of written and unwritten behavioral expectations. Within today’s intense climate, business leaders and HR should review their company’s position and anti-harassment policies to clearly define and articulate behaviors considered unacceptable within their own unique culture.
Train Your People. Let’s make this assumption — all companies require harassment prevention training for their employees. But seriously, when we take a closer look at those “check the box” training requirements, how effective are they, really? New employees get a laundry list of onboarding to-dos, including a quick online e-learning module to view within their first few days . . . harassment training — check. I’ll bet somewhere there’s a signed Harassment Training Acknowledgment Form in a personnel file labeled H. Weinstein. Smart employers are beefing up prevention and awareness through professionally facilitated, collaborative and engaging positive workplace training programs. Far from “check the box” experiences, they help calibrate expectations across all levels of the organization and have a stickiness that translates well once employees are back on the job.
Communicate with Transparency. There’s one more critical step to ensure your company remains on the “Nice List.” If employees don’t know (or don’t trust) the actions they may experience when bringing a concern forward, no amount of harassment policy deployment or training will ensure an environment free from abuse. Boards should demand that executives set and maintain high standards, managers should be held accountable for monitoring and immediately reporting violations, and every employee should be helped to understand and articulate their company’s problem resolution process and the channels available for reporting.
The media accounts of high-profile sexual harassment allegations have triggered a watershed moment in our cultural history, and I doubt we’ve reached the tip of this iceberg yet. More notables will be added to the Naughty List, more shocking details will crawl across our screens, and through this movement, employees who’ve in the past suffered in silence will find the courage to speak out. In fact, the Commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights predicts their office will see an uptick in sexual harassment charges and is gearing up through educational symposiums and videos aimed at building awareness and providing support.
Taking action to stay on the right side of the Naughty and Nice List always brings good results, especially for employers who show they care about their people by creating a positive work environment!