For example, factory workers, Lipnic noted, aren’t likely to draw many parallels between their work environment and the corporate office portrayed in a training session. Also, the way employees report harassment will vary by workplace. It’s crucial that victims know where exactly to go, that they will be supported, and that their complaint will be investigated confidentially. Most harassment training doesn’t do that, which may help explain the EEOC’s finding that three out of four instances of harassment – sexual or otherwise – go unreported.
According to King and Lipnic, sexual harassment training is more effective in person. Perspective exercises, like imagining oneself or a loved one on the receiving end of an unwanted touch, for example, encourage empathy, King says.
It’s crucial, too, that leaders across every stratum of a company attend training with their employees: not only does this underline the fact that people in power are not immune from disciplinary action if they fail to behave respectfully toward colleagues, according to King, it also “conveys the seriousness with which they take the topic and the subject matter.”
“If the leaders themselves act as allies, if they engage in behaviours that call attention to inappropriate behaviour … that can create a norm that that’s what we do in our organisation,” King says, adding that the presence of senior managers – whom we know to be just as likely to be perpetrators or as capable of offense as anyone else – might also win respect from the more likely culprits, who wouldn’t take much away from a video presentation but might be more inclined to listen to an authority figure.
With those offenders in mind, among the most important things training can communicate, Lipnic says, is: “This is not trying to change your mind, this is telling you how to keep your job.”
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