Sexual harassment has been illegal in the United States for over 30 years, but it’s the #MeToo movement that has changed our workplaces forever. Some business leaders will say for the good while others will claim not so.
Johnny C. Taylor, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest HR professional society, was recently quoted as saying, “More executives are strongly and publicly communicating that inappropriate behavior won’t be tolerated at their organizations. They are also changing their own behavior, with one-third of those polled in a recent SHRM survey saying they have changed their conduct at work to eliminate the perception of harassment behavior.”
Dr. ArLyne Diamond, president and founder of a consulting firm, has published hundreds of articles and four books in the vein of management and the workplace. She supports the awareness the #MeToo movement is bringing but indicated there may be some unintended ramifications. “People are afraid right now,” said Diamond. “There’s going to be some drawing back from casual conversation and casual relationships.”
While the movement is well-founded, Diamond sees it as not only killing water cooler conversations, but professional conversations too. “I’m somewhat afraid that there might also be a situation where men become more reluctant to interact with women professionally,” she says.
Many business leaders, and employees as well, recognize that the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction … and some say maybe too much. It is safe to say that many male employees, regardless of their title or position, are walking on eggshells these days.
Having said this, every person in the workplace needs to understand that sexual harassment, either in the form of quid pro quo or the kind that creates a hostile and intimating work environment, is totally unacceptable and should never be tolerated.
Regardless of your philosophical view of the #MeToo movement, it has and will continue to create a real and lasting positive cultural transformation that every business leader and human resource person must recognize and address.
Subsequently, while there is no one, perfect answer, it is critical that we as leaders take positive steps to ensure a workplace that is free from all forms of harassment — a workplace in which everyone feels safe and secure. Here are some suggestions for how we do this:
- Provide all employees with training and education in the areas of sexual harassment prevention and anti-discrimination.
- Lead by example. Espouse what professionalism looks like and ensure that everyone adheres to the same standard of behavior.
- Foster a culture of trust and respect in your organization.
- Hold everyone in the company — both men and women — to the same expectations.
- Ensure your HR policies are up to date and that everyone understands the policies and their level of individual accountability.
Committing to these five, actionable items will be a huge step in ensuring that your business and your employees will continue to be successful in the #MeToo era.
Scott Tackett is a Business Development Advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. He is considered the leading expert in restoration and cleaning for Human Resource Development and Organizational Leadership with over 30 years of experience. Through Violand, Tackett works with companies to develop their people and profits. To reach him, visit Violand.com or call (800)360-3513.