Workplace Harassment CRISIS and How Your Firm Should React

The past six weeks has brought daily stories in the media about one of the century’s biggest workplace crisis moments, all focused on one key topic – harassment.

The fact is that, historically speaking, when even one bombshell story about harassment hits the news, the number of complaints in all workplaces increase…significantly. When an unprecedented number of cases simultaneously converge on the national stage, as we are seeing today, the issue explodes and directly impacts each and every workplace.

Consider this indicator – Since the Harvey Weinstein story broke, the pages dedicated to Harassment related training and services on the OperationsInc website have seen a 200% increase in traffic. Many of our clients have refocused a spotlight on training for both awareness and prevention, while asking us if they are doing all they can to ensure their firm is doing all they can, within reason.

We felt it would be helpful to share our views with all of you who subscribe to our newsletter. Here is my very candid and direct take on what all firms need to consider at this workplace crossroad:

  1. There’s Training…and then there is TRAINING. Too many employers see Harassment Prevention and Awareness Training as a formality; as a “check-the-box” effort so they can say they have completed this exercise. If you want to change culture and correct bad behavior you need something more. Training that works – that is “sticky” and has impact – must be interactive. It must be done in a way that forces all participants to engage.
  2. While many provide training to employees in states where the law requires it, the reality is that training should be provided, at a minimum, to all members of management in offices in every state. Further, offering curriculum that is specifically geared for staff level resources is also advised.
  3. When you provide the training, it should carry the strong and clear message that the firm will not tolerate the presence of a hostile work environment or any of the associated characteristics. That message is tough (at best) to deliver in force if/when any member of senior leadership is excused from attending the training, chooses not to attend, or attends but does not engage. Countless court cases cite management’s failure to participate in required training programs as extremely valuable and damaging evidence of an employer’s failure to provide a safe workplace.
  4. Back up all training with policies that use the law as their foundation; that operate in lockstep with the training you have provided.

The above is not just about our opinions. In the past month there has been a wave of articles that talk to these points as well, including the Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and Bloomberg. We’ve collected several and placed links to them here: Articles on Workplace Harassment.

If after reading the above you have any doubts about the completeness of your firm’s efforts to address and prevent harassment in your workplace the time to act is now. Please feel free to contact David Lewis, CEO of OperationsInc, personally at dlewis@OperationsInc.com with any questions or concerns about your workplace and / or workplace culture.