“That was a jaw-dropping moment for us.”
This was Commissioner Victoria A. Lipnic’s, of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), comment upon learning that despite 30 years of corporate training, there is no evidence to support such measures alone have had any effect on prevent workplace harassment. Lipnic’s reaction was voiced in a Sunday Session at the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition.
Although harassment training solely has proven ineffective, Lipnic and Special Task Force Co-Chair Chai R. Feldblum urge HR professionals to build on and grow their organizations existing policies rather than scrapping them. Employees have to believe their leaders are authentically committed to stopping harassment. A primary objective of the Select Task Force is to equip and educate HR professionals with tools and talking points to create a respectful and safe harassment-free workplace.
The Select Task Force’s goal is to stamp out all unwanted (and unlawful) behavior in the workplace based on legally protected characteristics of a person’s race, creed, gender, nationality, genetics, or disability. Beyond the law, Lipnic emphasis the Select Task Force wants “to stop unwelcome conduct before it rises to the level of a legal problem” of pervasive severity.
To counter and prevent workplace harassment, Lipnic and Feldblum offer several strategies and observations:
- Bad behavior is bad business. In 2015 alone, the EEOC recovered $165 million from harassment charges against employees. Sharing this information is an effective illustration that tolerating harassment in order to keep high-ranking staff is not a necessary evil.
- Rather than generic and impersonal online videos, offer live presentations that are catered and customized to the workplace. Training that is personalized and relevant will foster a desired effect.
- Adopting “bystander intervention training” encourages employees to recognize and speak up when any harassing behavior is observed. This strategy is based on the “It’s On Us” campaign to thwart sexual violence, whereby employees pledge to intervene if a rape or sexual assault in progress is witnessed.
- Installing skills-based “workplace civility training” helps cultivate an intentional culture that depends on mutual respect.