Sexual harassment is a unique species of workplace “animal” (i.e. problem). The #MeToo revelations helped identify the most dangerous and expensive kind in the taxonomy, the “High Value Harasser” like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Louis CK. “High Value Harassers,” though rare, still roam freely in some workplaces, using their power to leverage sex.
There exists, however, a far more common harassment animal on the opposite end of this taxonomy: the average manager who cannot conceive of “harassing” anyone, despite contrary allegations. Most harassment claims fall in or near this end of the spectrum—i.e. employee “hostile work environment” allegations based upon isolated, ambiguous, off-hand comments and workplace banter. Most, if not virtually ALL managers accused of this variety of harassment fail to perceive their own conduct as potentially “harassing,” insisting instead
- I was just joking!
- I did not mean to offend anyone.
- I thought it was funny; I always post funny cartoons.
Therein lies the challenge for HR professionals: how can they deter conduct (i.e. “harassment”) that no one, at least in his/her own mind, commits?
Effective sexual harassment training borrows tools from other disciplines, especially counseling and social psychology, to help managers understand the psychodynamics of harassment—e.g. the power dynamics that color every interaction with subordinates; the legal implications of the “employment relationship;” the common disconnect between an “intended” message and a “received” one; the “cognitive dissonance” that prevents managers from perceiving their own conduct as potentially harassing; the everyday scenarios in which harassment allegations arise. We hope you can join us for this innovative program.