I recently faced a friendly audience for the first of two sessions on preventing sexual harassment. I could tell by the questions and responses that they were listening. This was not a room full of bobble heads nodding in unison at everything I said.
About twenty minutes into the session one woman piped up, “This is good training, but we’ve had this twice before and I don’t think there are any issues of harassment around here.” I didn’t have a chance to formulate my response when another woman responded to the comment, “Where do you work?”
I did not hear about deep dark secrets or blatant attempts to marginalize individuals based on their gender. It’s the seemingly little things, jokes, comments and references that raise concern. This workplace was not a real life replica of The Office. The employer does the right things and has a good reputation but with a multi-cultural, multi-generational team there is plenty of room for situations that cross the fine line of harassment and can come back to haunt a company.
Did the training raise awareness? No doubt. The employee who began the meeting by telling a co-worker, “nice shirt” knows that this is a perfectly appropriate pleasantry. At the same time some of the ethnic jokes and references to slow, older employees are on the radar to stop.
I enjoyed the lively conversation about the type of profanity that is common in the media and certain workplaces today. While I tend to be strict about the language I think is permissible, I understand that for many people standards have relaxed.
An effective policy, training and good conversation will help provide the kind of environment you want and one that avoids creating targets for claims of harassment. Does your workplace sound like the morning news shows, a sitcom or R rated movie?