The proliferation of the #metoo hashtag has left many executives with their stomachs in knots. Even as we shared our own stories of inappropriate behavior at work – and we all have them – we also silently wondered if we’ve done enough to combat similar situations in our own organizations. Our greatest fear being that #metoo might also mean #mycompanyhasaproblem or #ibettertakecareofthatsituation.
For most organizations, traditional harassment training is the first line of defense. Done sporadically for all employees and every few years for managers, it’s a painful process that nobody, including the trainer, looks forward to. Not a soul wants to give up a few hours of their day to talk about seriously uncomfortable situations that can land you in deep legal trouble.
As a longtime HR leader and senior executive, I’ve noticed that one of the primary causes of our current sexual harassment crisis isn’t a lack of training but rather the reluctance of top executives to even acknowledge that problems might exist. Too frequently, allegations are quickly dismissed rather than addressing the bad behavior.
It takes a lot of courage and conviction to handle abuse allegation issues. It takes even more courage for us to clearly evaluate our company culture and raise the standards of acceptable behavior for ourselves and our teams. Learning about harassment law during a boring training session rarely changes anyone’s behavior. It’s the organization’s culture that needs to change.
I’m not saying that mandatory harassment training shouldn’t be done. It’s critical and should be conducted regularly. (Click here to request a Mettise.) However, leadership must endorse the training and assure participants that harassment allegations won’t be trivialized. In addition, the curriculum should include bystander-intervention training, so all employees are empowered to address issues.
As a leader, it’s up to you to model appropriate behavior. You are the Chief Culture Officer. Therefore, it is your responsibility to grow, develop and reproduce the culture you desire. Take the time to audit your culture, or ask Mettise to conduct a cultural audit. The goal? Having a workplace where every team member understands that harassment, gender inequality and #metoo is unacceptable.