Love is in the air…which could spell doom for some employers in light of the #MeToo movement. This movement that went viral the end of last year has brought so much awareness to sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. There have been millions of posts since the #metoo movement, with countless stories of sexual harassment in the workplace. I myself have my own experiences and while I didn’t share them on social media, hearing these stories by so many other women has 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. Too often employers have “CYA” policies that they don’t follow, they don’t practice and above all, they don’t value.
This tells me that 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 those that are felt and reinforced in every area, from how you recruit, reward, recognize and value employees, as well as how you terminate. Embracing and supporting culture is not just senior management or HR’s position, but the responsibility of every employee.
So, in light of the #metoo stories that have been shared, how can you protect your organization from becoming the latest headline?
There are many things you can do, 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 these are called consensual relationship agreements)?
And, given that people are human and things may happen, make sure that you have a culture and practice that ensures that complaints are properly handled, should they come in. This includes 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 strong supportive culture all working together can and will help ensure that your organization is free of harassment and be a great place to work for everyone!