My vision statement when I started Change Masters in 1986 was to change company environments one-person-at-a-time. My measurement was improving workplace environments to the point where the company environment would be a place my three daughters would want to work. That is still my vision.
I acknowledge that #METOO is a touchy topic. I hesitated to write about it because of how strong the reactions can be on all sides of the issue. I know some people might even respond with, “What do you mean, ‘sides of the issue’. It is clear cut.” The issue hits at the very core of who we are and the social environment we live in, so it makes sense that it creates strong emotion. My focus is on what’s next for organization leaders.
I would like to share the heart of a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article on Breaking the Silence about what leaders need to do to create civility and justice in the workplace.
STEP 1: DEMONSTRATE COMMITTED AND ENGAGED LEADERSHIP
- Don’t consider harassment settlements simply a cost of doing business.
- It is bigger than just sexual harassment. It is feeling safe at work.
STEP 2: REQUIRE CONSISTENT AND DEMONSTRATED ACCOUNTABILITY
- Workers notice when someone is allowed to get away with mistreating colleagues.
- When an incident of harassment occurs, the discipline that follows must be proportionate and avoid use of the phrase “zero-tolerance policy”.
- Giving accolades to people who do the right thing helps reinforce accountability.
STEP 3: ISSUE STRONG AND COMPREHENSIVE POLICIES
- Employees in workplaces without preventive policies and procedures report the highest levels of harassment.
- Policies should be clear (with examples) and multiple reporting channels should be confidential and objective.
STEP 4: OFFER TRUSTED AND ACCESSIBLE COMPLAINT PROCEDURES
- Managers and supervisors are the heart of any employer’s prevention program.
- The privacy of both the person making the complaint and the alleged harasser must be protected as much as possible.
- Ensuring that retaliation doesn’t occur is a tall order if a workplace culture currently tolerates harassment.
STEP 5: PROVIDE REGULAR, INTERACTIVE TRAINING TAILORED TO THE ORGANIZATION
- This training should explain clearly what conduct is unacceptable, using realistic examples tailored to the workplace.
- Focus on “workplace civility” is designed to help foster a climate in which rude, inappropriate, or abusive behavior is nipped in the bud.
- The third type of training focuses on “bystander intervention.”
It will take courage
It will take courage and commitment at all levels to make things better. Clear expectations and training are always important, but not sufficient. Actions speak louder than words. It needs to be a topic that is on the table and not avoided. Focusing on civility and justice in the workplace will attract and retain the best talent. It will take forgiveness while still holding to meaningful consequences. Hopefully, my daughters would approve.