By Wanda Stallworth, senior consultant, The Leadership Group LLC.
The high-profile #metoo movement has raised awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace to new heights. Even so, it is important not to overlook potential signs of trouble in your own organization, in areas that don’t generate the glare of national headlines or viral social media posts.
- When a new manager demeans a talented administrative assistant by calling her “sexy” or “babe” instead of by her name and under-valuing her good work.
- When a high-ranking married manager engages in an affair with a high-achieving subordinate employee before it goes sour and ends with that employee’s dismissal after she suddenly developed “performance issues,” causing whispers throughout the organization.
- When an accounting manager inappropriately embraces a newly assigned agency temp worker in plain view of all in the office, to the point of making other employees uncomfortable and feeling victimized themselves.
- When top leaders make light of company-sponsored Sexual Harassment Awareness Training, indicating less than total buy-in from the top and undercutting the training’s positive impact on the workplace.
If the #metoo movement was not enough to get sexual harassment on your radar as a top priority, consider these shocking numbers:
- In 2016, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a comprehensive study of workplace harassment in the United States, which concluded that “anywhere from 25 percent to 85 percent of womenreport having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.”
- At least one in four employees face workplace sexual harassment.
- But it is believed that 75 percent of people who experience sexual harassment do not report it.
- Indeed, 23 percent of employeesreport they had witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace, but just 33 percent of those made a report about what they had seen, according to a 2013 EEOC poll.
The negative effects of workplace sexual harassment should be obvious to all, but why does this behavior persist and how can an organization best combat it? An attitude tolerant of sexual harassment is too often the result of bad behavior being given tacit approval or overlooked completely by higher ups. In the past, consequences have been lacking. That is changing.
The Leadership Group is a 20-year-old statewide consulting company that helps top managers improve their leadership skills, including how to build an organization that values every employee and helps them reach their professional potential. TLG consultants help shape a corporate culture and environment that embraces diversity and inclusion; where an organization’s employees from entry level to senior executive live out a credo that makes sexual harassment unacceptable.
The Leadership Group consultants help leaders develop Human Resourcepolicies that are readily accessible via Intranet; clearly defining employee expectations and consequences for unacceptable behavior. They help HR teams earn a reputation for responding quickly and thoroughly to employee concerns. Employees are given several avenues to report problems, the manager’s open-door, an assigned HR Business Partner or anonymous Employee Hotline, depending on the needs of each organization.
Key ways a leader can prevent sexual harassment include:
- Broadcast a clear, zero-tolerance policy
- Train managers, starting at the top
- Train all staff
- Take decisive action
Learn more about how The Leadership Group can help your organization’s team at www.theleadershipgroup.com.