The Me Too movement brought workplace sexual harassment and discrimination to the forefront of the political sphere. Nationwide, public discourse has centered around how to change American business culture in a way that makes such indignities and damaging behaviors a thing of the past. Employees who experience and witness sexual harassment are often afraid to speak up. Retaliation against those who do is rampant.
Businesses must address this issue. It is the law. It is also a matter of common decency and respect, something that counts in a free society. 21st Century Fox has paid $110 million in sexual harassment claims. Uber has lost $18 billion in market cap as a result of its sexual harassment problem. Harvey Weinstein’s production company has been decimated and may not survive.
If you operate a small business or are a manager in a larger organization,, the Me Too movement demonstrates that building a culture with roots in standing firmly against sexual harassment is imperative to building and maintaining a successful enterprise. Though that conclusion may be easy to reach, achieving results takes some work. Meera Seshardi, a sexual violence prevention specialist, and Samir Mansur, a global policy strategist, teamed up in an article on the Huffington Post to provide insight into how managers can get ahead of the sexual harassment problem.
To start with, plan an all-hands meeting to discuss the topic. This is management’s chance to let employees know they are protected. It is important to emphasize that misconduct is prohibited, and no one, regardless of rank, is above the zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy. Employees must also understand that the Company has a reporting system. Clearly defining sexual harassment is also crucial. When conduct that constitutes sexual harassment is clear to everyone, employees are more likely to report infractions. This also creates a shared definition of sexual harassment, keeping everyone on the same page.
When reporting occurs, confidentiality is key. It is vitally important for employees to know who handles their reports, that their reports are taken seriously, and that follow up will occur.
Creating an effective culture means everyone, from the CEO to new hires, remain invested in the mission of zero tolerance for sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace. Employees must always be encouraged to look out for each other and speak up about problems observed. When employees speak up early, management can prevent the problem from further deteriorating. In addition to obtaining buy-in from all Company stakeholders, managers must reinforce the message on a regular basis and keep an eye on how things are going. The sooner problems are addressed, the less damage they create.