Want to End Harassment? It’s a Culture Thing (#SHRM16)

In case you missed it, there was a SHRM Conference Daily post this week with a very interesting headline. In short, the EEOC said that training doesn’t reduce discrimination. The logic behind the commentary had a few holes that I want to point out really quick, but I want to spend the majority of the time today helping you to understand what actually works for eliminating harassment. Here’s the synopsis:

The biggest finding of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace may be what it failed to find—namely, any evidence that the past 30 years of corporate training has had any effect on preventing workplace harassment. “That was a jaw-dropping moment for us,” said EEOC Commissioner Victoria A. Lipnic in a Sunday Session at the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition.

Two quick notes that need clarification:

  • There are 90,000 harassment claims, so training doesn’t work. What kind of training was used? How many of those complaints actually were legitimate harassment issues?
  • 90% of harassment is never reported. That means that hundreds of thousands of workers in the US are harassed every year. I don’t buy it. Working with a jerk or someone that is not always pleasant doesn’t equal harassment, but many people miscategorize it that way all the time.

How to Completely Eliminate Harassment

Want to absolutely crush harassment at your organization? It requires a culture that encourages ethical treatment of others. It requires a company that values not only individuality, but the fundamentals of respect and appreciation for others.

Think about it. We’ve all worked with people that simply didn’t respect others around them. Those people are the ones that often bring about harassment, because they do not have the respect for their peers and coworkers that is necessary for good working relationships.

So, we need to create organizations that are uncomfortable for those kinds of people. We need to make it unpleasant to be disrespectful by addressing it as a performance issue. We need to create an environment where those kinds of behaviors demand a swift and unpleasant response instead of sweeping them under the rug, brushing them off, etc. Harassment is serious, and not just in a “oh boy, we’re going to get sued for that one” kind of way. It can cost you great, productive employees and drive away the talent that your organization needs.

So, it may be no small feat, but crushing harassment is a worthy goal. Start today. Build a culture of respect and appreciation. Take issues seriously and address them promptly. Then you can reap the benefits of a collaborative, harassment-free workplace.

3 thoughts on “Want to End Harassment? It’s a Culture Thing (#SHRM16)

  1. I agree with your article, it is something all CEO’s need to read and understand. Creating culture is what makes a company successful. Culture = Cash
    A Winning Culture is not created by people who sort of care. You want people who smile when they come to work.

  2. Ben,
    Thank you this post. Ethics is at the top of my list for creating the organization that people can thrive in with no worries. Great analysis of the difference from and unpleasant worker compared to actual harassment.
    — Shaz

  3. Your article was timely. Thanks to coming across your blog about 18 months ago, I am now pursuing a Masters in HR Management (my undergrad was non-HR and business related and that was a long time ago). We were on the subject of corporate culture and I used a quotation from your blog. I’ll keep you posted on the grade. What I learned is that an organization cannot “train” harassment away. Thanks so much.

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