In 2018, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 76,505 charges of harassment or discrimination from employees across the country. The issue of sexual harassment and assault has been front and center in the news since the #MeToo movement. As the list of high-profile men accused of sexual harassment or assault grows, one has to wonder why was this behavior tolerated for so long? Obviously, the companies involved did not do their due diligence to ferret out this behavior and eradicate it from the workplace. So what can a single leader do to prevent sexual harassment from occurring on their watch?
Organizational climate is a strong predictor of workplace sexual harassment especially when men outnumber women, supervisors are predominantly male, and where there is a sense among employees that complaints will not be taken seriously. As a manager, you can exert control over your department’s climate by doing the following:
- Sharing a copy of the company’s sexual harassment policy and reporting procedures with all of your employees.
- Asserting that you stand behind the policy and will vigorously enforce it.
- Inviting employees to come and talk to you about any concerns they have.
- Urging employees to report any conduct in violation of the policy.
- Supporting employees who have reported by shielding them from gossip, retaliation, and/or emotional and physical abuse.
- Swiftly helping to investigate (in partnership with HR, Legal and/or Security) any and all accusations of sexual harassment or assault.
- Having zero tolerance for anyone found to be a harasser or worse.
Leveraging internal resources like human resources, coupled with zero tolerance enforcement, can go a long way towards ensuring that employees remain safe under your leadership.