Love is in the air…which could spell doom for some employers in light of the #MeToo movement. This movement went viral at the end of last year and has brought so much critical awareness to sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. There have been millions of posts since the #metoo movement began, with countless stories of workplace sexual harassment. I, too, have my own experiences, and while I didn’t share them on social media, hearing these stories by so many other women has vividly brought it all back.
What the heck is an employer to do to ensure everyone has a safe and harassment-free work environment?
How could these claims, allegations, and shared stories be so rampant when almost every US organization has a sexual harassment policy? And where was HR, you may ask? HR’s job is not only to hire talent but to manage performance, be an employee advocate, and help foster a great place to work.
Clearly, this is indicative of a much bigger issue. Employers often have “CYA” policies that they don’t follow, don’t practice, and above all, they don’t value.
The problem isn’t with the policy; it is with the culture.
Having a healthy culture is more than a policy or statement in your employee handbook. The best company cultures are felt and reinforced in every area, from how you recruit, reward, recognize and value employees and how you terminate. Embracing and supporting culture is not just senior management or HR’s position but also the responsibility of every employee.
So, in light of the thousands of #metoo stories shared, how can you protect your organization from becoming the latest headline?
You can do many things, starting with coming together to review the current policies and practices. Do you have a dating policy in place? What about your anti-harassment policy? Is it tight? Do you follow it? Do you have a practice that includes “Love Contracts” (sometimes called consensual relationship agreements)?
Given that people are human and things may happen make sure that you have a culture and practice that ensures that complaints get consistently and adequately handled. Such will include quickly responding to the complaint and possibly hiring a third-party investigator or external HR Consultant to work through the investigation in an impartial manner.
Having the combination of policy, practice, and a strong supportive culture can and will help ensure that your organization is free of harassment and be a great place to work for everyone!