What can companies actually do about harassment?

Google was in the news this week because - 20,000+ of their employees walked out to demand better treatment of women.  Their demands include not just pay equity, but also - improvements to how the company deals with harassment problems.
Photo by Russell Brandom / The Verge

Their list of demands seems quite reasonable and can be found here: https://www.thecut.com/2018/11/google-walkout-organizers-explain-demands.html

The catalyst for this was that an executive at Alphabet - the parent company of Google - stepped down amid harassment allegations. https://www.upi.com/Google-workers-walking-off-the-job-amid-sexual-harassment-cases/2971541066788/

This was an is a global movement within the company and the company was supportive of the walk out - meaning - they were not planning to retaliate against employees who participated. Which is good.

The basic demands are pay equity, transparent policy regarding harassment, an end to force arbitration, a diversity officer that reports directly to the CEO and employee representation on the board. These all seem like reasonable demands.

But this does bring up the question, what can companies realistically do? Obviously - conducting a harassment training isn't enough. A training won't change behavior and it certainly won't change processes that are in place to protect the company instead of processes to protect the employees.

This last bit is the important part. What the employees want - are processes that protect them. The problem is that even with processes in place, they aren't always used and processes can often protect the accused and cause harm to the victim.

So what should companies that take this seriously do?  Find out what ideally should be happening.  And I don't mean - the basics - have a whistle blower program and polices etc. Though you should have all that.

What I mean is that employees and lawyers advising employers need to know what exactly should be happening to make the unwanted behavior stop. It should be pretty clear to everyone that telling someone who is abusing an employee to stop - doesn't actually work. I get called in when companies have an employee they want to "fix." And if that is your attitude, you aren't going to succeed.

Harassment is a behavior. Unwanted behaviors can be eliminated but you need to know the science of how exactly that happens so you can build your process to accomplish that. Legal concerns are important, but legal processes are almost always after the fact and designed to protect the employer against claims made by an employee. And yes - you need to do that - but again - that leaves your employees vulnerable and tends to protect the abuser and actually increases the harm done.

So let's stop putting the cart before the horse and start focusing on what actually has to happen to help employees protect themselves and their co-workers from the bad apples in your organization.  Learn what works to make unwanted behaviors stop!

I have a lot of courses on this and if you are a labor lawyer and have not yet been taught the behavioral science of how to get unwanted behaviors to stop - I have great news for you - I have courses approved by the FL Bar for CLE credit. So please start learning this and lets start changing how we handle these situations.

Behavioral Science Based Bullying & Harassment Courses: https://humanistlearning.com/category/bullyingharassment/

CLE: https://humanistlearning.com/category/continuing-education-2/cle/

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