There is a new allegation of workplace harassment by a well-known public figure on a daily basis now. Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Harvey Weinstein, the Dallas Mavericks, Ford Motor Company – you know the names and these are just a few.
And the offenders are from a number of industries; including media, politics, sports, and entertainment. It’s an outrage and a national embarrassment – it’s also bad for business. Here’s what no one is asking: What role do employers have in creating a safe workspace for everyone?
This is my answer: Employers are 100% responsible for what happens at work.
Before we can tackle what employers can do to better prevent harassment, let’s look at the limited amount of information that exists, much of which is the result of a study undertaken by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016 (employers aren’t exactly motivated to reveal this type of information regularly).
Here are a few highlights:
- 3 out of 4 women reported being on the receiving end of unwelcome, sexually-based, behaviors.
- 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation.
- On average, 87% -94% of individuals experiencing harassment did not file a formal complaint.
What do these stats tell us?
First, sexual harassment is pervasive.
Second, businesses are still not properly trained in how to manage complaints by either mishandling the situation and/or discouraging potential victims to come forward.
From what we’ve seen at 1Huddle (and as experts in corporate training), much of the blame falls on C-Suite executives who are failing to bring about change when it is needed most. It’s also a product of the awful, outdated and ineffective harassment training programs used by companies around the world.
We’ve all seen them – a bad video-based module with a quiz at the end. Employees often skip parts and cheat their way through the tests. It’s the equivalent of checking a box for companies, but now times are changing.
Here’s what can be done to drastically improve training so that something so important isn’t overlooked:
1. Make it important.
It’s time for a shift in culture. Workplace harassment has been minimized in the past, but that has to change. It’s critical that executives make training and awareness a priority for all parts of the organization.
2. Make it interactive.
Any training is easy to ignore if it doesn’t require anything of the trainee. In the case of harassment training, where real behavior modification may be needed, it’s critical that there is some degree of interactivity.
3. Understand the impact.
It’s easy to shrug off workplace training without understanding its effect on your organization’s finances. Want to know what you can expect from a major workplace harassment event? Just ask the Weinstein Company. They’re struggling to do business and so will any company that doesn’t take this seriously.
Remember: an organization in crisis will see a direct impact on sales, customer experience, and will result in a toxic work environment for employees.
We’ve had an increasing number of calls asking for our help in designing smarter training methods for workplace harassment. It’s time for corporate leadership teams to put their money where their mouth is.
We can’t afford to allow for workplace cultures that aren’t safe for all employees.