How to Create & Maintain a Respectful Workplace
There is so much in the news today about our culture in the United States. With the recent #MeToo campaign, in which people are indicating they have suffered sexual harassment or assault, to the troubles in Hollywood, people are growing tired of not being treated with respect and dignity. We have become a society that is more sensitive to discriminatory actions than ever before and more tolerant of differences in society. And it’s not just about gender differences anymore, it’s about every difference!
The workforce is changing.
Take a look back at the 1960s. The workforce was similar with regard to its appearance compared to today’s workforce which looks very different from then…from race, ethnicity, generational differences, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical appearance, and so many other differences are evident in today’s workplace. Today’s workforce is incredibly diverse, and with that diversity comes creative ways of solving problems and differing points of view. It also has its challenges.
Unfortunately, we sometimes see a lag in some employees exploring diversity, and the result is a lack of understanding and sometimes an avoidance of those differences. That can lead to challenges in any culture. Combined with the long history of harassment and bullying occurring in the workplace and you can see there is room to help employees with those challenges.
Leaders, you can help address the change in your organizations.
As leaders of organizations, we need to help our employees who may struggle with diversity and respectful behavior understand all of the diversity that surrounds them, as well as give those employees a clear understanding of the differences we are experiencing in the workplace. Those same employees need tools to help them overcome any stereotypes or biases they may have developed.
If you are a government contractor, you are not “required” to conduct sexual harassment prevention training (unless a contract specifically calls for it). You do, however, fall under the OFCCP’s Sex Discrimination Guidelines which are in fact, widely held as requirements. Ideally, the managers would have a different level of training than the individual contributors in your organization. This helps to ensure the message is targeted to the audience, thus increasing the likelihood of better information exchange.
Creating and Maintaining a Respectful Workplace
We have noticed more recently that perhaps these current events are triggering leaders to take action to address sexual harassment prevention. Our increase in requests from organizations wanting to address these changes has significantly increased. And while we advise organizations to conduct sexual harassment training annually, it's never too late to begin.
At Helios, we call our training “Creating and Maintaining a Respectful Workplace”. This training is best done in-person and helps participants learn about and respect each other’s differences and also teaches appropriate ways to interact in the workplace. The training is interactive, using real-life experiences to help guide the messages delivered. In addition to in-person training, Helios has a blended approach that includes online and mobile-based training. This helps to solve the challenges of training remote workers and ensuring they get the same experience as those trained in person. Our training programs and approaches are tailored to take into consideration the specific culture of the organization we are working with.
Even though training on sexual harassment prevention and creating a respectful workplace (understanding diversity) may not be required, it’s a great idea. First, it’s the right thing to do. Second, it puts your brand in a good light with the outside world. Third, it shows a good faith effort on your part to ensure your employees and managers are properly equipped to handle anything that comes their way. And finally, in the unfortunate event you should have to sit across from someone in employment practices, harassment, or discrimination charge, the courts favor those organizations that have taken this topic seriously and provided training to their employees.
Key strategic areas of importance to establish in your culture:
- Training and awareness is imperative. Ensuring employees and managers are clear about what is acceptable in the workplace, and what is not is essential.
- Consistent, timely feedback and course corrections are needed. It is not uncommon to learn an employee’s behaviors are offensive to someone, yet it has not been addressed with the employee. Providing that feedback quickly permits a change in behavior and may stave off any future issues.
- Equally important is the behavior modeled and accepted by management. If managers are not firm with their business practices, small behaviors begin to creep in which open the door to more concerning behavior. By maintaining professional standards in the office, an organization limits its chances of creating an unacceptable workplace setting.
- Establishing clear procedures for reporting these types of behavior is critical to ensuring any areas that may arise are handled swiftly, fairly and firmly.
I'm not saying it's easy, it can be a challenge, however with a strong strategy and commitment to standards, an organization can build the ideal culture for productivity and peace of mind in the office!