If you only provide anti-harassment training because it satisfies risk management or compliance obligations, it’s time to shift your perspective! If you see it as a “check the box” thing, you’ll convey that to your people. If you reframe your thinking a bit, you could leverage anti-harassment training to increase psychological safety, improve engagement, and begin making larger cultural tweaks to make your environment more inclusive. Here are five considerations to help you coax yourself into a different mindset around harassment compliance:
- You could use the anti-harassment training as a type of leadership summit to check for alignment. While your harassment trainer will focus on the law, you could have also use that as an opportunity to review key organizational policies that are impacted to anti-harassment laws. If you plan your training far enough in advance, your trainer can work your actual policy into the training! If you have several leaders and they all understand the policy to mean different things or utilize different protocols when following the policy, you need to fix that. By getting all of your leaders on the same page, you strengthen their individual and collective ability to lead and exercise authority.
- Regular anti-harassment training speaks to leadership’s commitment following rules, even when there’s no immediate consequence or someone breathing down their necks. It tells employees that everybody submits to someone’s authority and that their leaders are no different. It goes a step further, too: it says that your organization respects the law, which will strengthen your organization’s internal brand. Most of all, when leaders follow rules without relentless complaining, another example is set. One of the hardest things to overcome as a leader is the novice mistake of complaining about a requirement to people who report to you…when they don’t want to follow a request that you put forth, they will grumble in the same fashion.
- When leaders embrace the spirit of anti-harassment laws rather than just mandatory training, leaders are making a statement about the atmosphere and culture that they want and will support. Your approach to anti-harassment training can be used to set the foundation for every other aspect of professional behavior! From communication to conflict to performance managment to discipline, anti-harassment training can be the start. A leader can tout their personal commitment as well as the organization’s commitment to fairness by positioning anti-harassment training this way: “We make sure you know the rules and your rights because we encourage honest dialogue here, and that takes courage. We want our people to know that they can be honest, and that they have backup if they fear retaliation. Meanwhile, we’re aiming to create an environment where concern about retaliation is the exception rather than the norm.”
- The provision of regular harassment training is a sign of empathy for employees who are unlike you, in terms of identity and status within the organization. Whether we like it or not, leaders are often shielded from the realities of the organization because of their authority; thus, it is hard to know whether downline employees truly feel safe and aren’t experiencing discrimination and being subjected to hostile work environments. You exemplify emotional intelligence and a strong sense of organizational awareness when you acknowledge this reality. You could even verbalize this sentiment at the beginning of the harassment training sessions to set the tone for employees’ behahior during the session and to reiterate what you hope they take away from it. You can even stress that you’ll be reviewing the feedback and evaluation forms to make sure that the training is worthwhile. Finally, anti-harassment training provides employees with information that tells them who to go to when they have questions or problems. Furthermore, thorough harassment training not only advises their employees of their right to utilize external reporting mechanisms and to complain about retaliation, but it helps your organization insist on accountability in peer-to-peer and peer-to-superior relationships.
- You’ll be able to explain the difference between compliance and inclusion! When you have conversations, you’ll be confident explaining whether and why inclusion matters at your organization. The honest truth is that compliance matters everywhere because it’s the law, but inclusion isn’t always an organizational value. It’s important that you know where you stand personally and where your organization stands. Promote your real values, not what you think employees want to hear. Whatever your values are, when you embrace them, you’ll be rewarded by less turnover among those who share your values. There’s an often overlooked secondary value to this type of retention: people have a way of attracting like-minded folks. Thus, the people who stay will be an asset when you recruit new talent because they’ll bring you more of themselves.