09 Feb 2018 Brings Increased Requests for Respectful Workplace Training
Connected to the Rise in the Need for Sexual Harassment Prevention Training in the Workplace
One month in and 2018 is already seeing an increase in requests for training to guard against Sexual Harassment and other forms of Harassment in the Workplace. The momentum has grown since the exposure of Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and other prominent figures in Hollywood, as well as the millions who have tweeted #MeToo, #TimesUp since October.
However, “the average workplace is not Hollywood actors,” says Elmer Dixon, President of Executive Diversity Services. It’s important to categorize what is blatant sexual assault and harassment. “For businesses it’s about educating their workforce about how to prevent sexual harassment.”
Dixon, who was formerly the EEO Officer for the Seattle Parks Department, noted that the need for guidelines and zero tolerance was high in the 1980’s and 90’s as more women entered the workplace in nontraditional roles. It was during that time that he helped rewrite the Sexual Harassment policy guidelines and designed sexual harassment prevention training for the department. Things quieted in subsequent years, but the topic is once again front and center.
“We live in a culture where we’ve made it okay for men to feel they have a license to take advantage of women or to sexualize conversations,” said Dixon. Certainly, the incidence of leaders clearly crossing boundaries and still being elected to office is sending a message that we don’t want in the workplace. “The time is now for HR departments to make sure that there are strong statements and policies leaving no room for ambiguity.”
Creating a Respectful Workplace
“The tone should always be around prevention and education,” advises Dixon. The statistics show that 75% of the time it is men harassing women, but that doesn’t mean that women are immune. A company policy should address behaviors that are not appropriate in the workplace.
When Dixon headed up the program at the Seattle Parks Department, he worked with material from Susan L. Webb who wrote Sexual Harassment, Shades of Gray: Guidelines for Managers, Supervisors & Employees. The program was mandatory for all employees, and the rigorous program did result in broader awareness of the do’s and don’ts. Yet Dixon’s primary role was enforcement and as EEO Officer, he led investigations into complaints of sexual harassment which often resulted in recommendations for firing when the situation was more egregious.
“Victims need to know what their rights are, that they can say no and that they can report any instances without fear of retribution. “Organizations need to set up zero tolerance policies and let employees know that retaliation will not be tolerated.
The Shades of Gray analogy talks of “low level harassers” as lighter shades of gray—a look here or glance there. But when there’s a power differential, for example a supervisor and direct report connection, that’s when it moves into darker shades of gray, or what is known as “quid quo pro” harassment or more aggressive behavior such as physical contact where people in power feel like they can get away with behaviors that cross a line. Chances are if that is happening, the existing policies have failed or are unclear.
“This is not about being on a witch hunt,” says Dixon. “The goal is to make employees aware of their actions and impact on others, and to teach steps they can take to move away from potentially harassing situations.”
Now is the time for companies to dust off their Sexual Harassment policies and to review and modify them as needed. Executive Diversity Services is here to help, with policy and guideline development, Respectful Workplace training for your workforce, and one-on-one coaching to ameliorate as needed with individual employees.