In my recent TEDx talk, I talk about the role we all play in stopping harassment. One of the most effective tools we have at our disposal is getting everyone involved in assuring that we all have a respectful workplace. Leadership is important, but we all have a role to play. That is one of the reasons that “bystander training” has become a staple of antiharassment efforts.
Keep in mind that these suggestions apply equally well to not only sexual harassment, but also to harassment based on race, national origin, color, age, religion, disability, or orientation/identity.
Why do those who see inappropriate behavior in the workplace not do something in response? Lots of reasons come to mind:
· Someone else will take care of it.
· The target will complain.
· Not in my job description.
· I don’t want to get involved.
· I don’t want to make anyone mad.
· I don’t want repercussions to come back on me.
· Perhaps it is not as serious as it looks.
Unfortunately, these responses, and other similar responses, are all too common. We need to enlist the help of everyone in the workplace in reinforcing standards of behavior. Training bystanders is one of our best tools. How can organizations encourage bystanders to intervene?
1. Train everyone on the tools that they can use when they see something inappropriate.
· If you see something, say something. Practice simulations where people choose the words to say.
· Offer to assist the target. Practice intervening and asking if help is needed.
· Say something to the harasser to encourage compliance with organizational behavioral expectations. Make sure everyone knows the organizational values and expectations for behavior, and can repeat and reinforce them if the need arises.
· Tell someone who can hold the offender accountable. Make sure everyone knows who to report to, and that it is everyone’s responsibility to report inappropriate behavior.
2. Assure everyone that your organizational values support acting as a team, and supporting each other. Use leadership behavior and language to reinforce the concept of team. Train first, second and higher level supervisors in using language to demonstrate “we are all in this together.”
3. Talk about the great harm the target of such behavior can suffer when silence results in perpetuating the situation. Make this part of your injury prevention platforms.
4. Make sure everyone knows about the significant business costs that continuing harassment can create.
By creating a behavior expectation that all are responsible for stopping harassment in the workplace, organizations can reinforce a culture of respect and prevent harassment from causing harm.