Sexual harassment is a major issue in organizations. We’ve seen example in media and politics about this very topic. Resource departments and managers struggle to mediate or handle the legalities of harassment. With such a sensitive topic, it is both a challenge and a reward to get people to proactively advocate for eliminating harassment from the workplace. With good training in this topic you can increase the general well-being of the workplace, better team spirit and open up a space for constructive dialogue.
It is vital that leaders, educators and managers understand how to learn about this for themselves and then teach this topic through constructive dialogue so they can eliminate this toxic behaviour altogether.
Why is it important to train properly on harassment?
Victims are often traumatized beyond the immediate job role and harassers can lose their jobs. Victim’s families and future job prospects also suffer. Organizations can also be liable in lawsuits and legal proceedings. A toxic workplace can exist where there is no education on this topic. It is vital that leaders, educators and managers understand how to learn about this for themselves and then teach this topic through constructive dialogue so they can eliminate this toxic behaviour altogether.
First we need to define and clarify the problem.
It is important to set the context and include the big picture because you are aiming to obtain a new perspective in the learners once the learning takes place. If a transformation doesn’t occur in one’s consciousness then it hasn’t truly taken and our work is for nothing. Let’s expand the topic categorically to include bullying, violence, depression, stress and anxiety as these are all factors in and around harassment. There may even be a section on narcissism. I had started my own workshops with climate change and inequality and used systems thinking to align it with harassment. Basically we are starting from an open mindset that can frame issues that relate to all of us.
This is about a change in personal viewpoint.
You need to also include defining the terms that includes bullying, harassment, and discrimination. Point out laws and policies of the organization and prepare some interaction and exercises that allow them to assimilate the importance of change. Now this is about a change in personal viewpoint, an individual learning because this is about values so we must speak to the learners on a deep and meaningful level.
There are two areas of education that go with harassment training. Perception and Culture.
Perception is about self-awareness and examining one’s own beliefs, bias and perspectives on harassment. Before the session, most of the time learners think about harassment in a way that creates an apathy or even may encourage bystanding when an incident occurs. Most the time incidents go unreported for fear of reprisal or social outcasting. That’s why we want to establish some leadership qualities in the learners that primes them for compassionate action when they do see unfairness or abuse.
Culture is about the norms, values and behaviours exhibited by the organization. Really we are addressing the informal culture. This is the language, policies, facilities, dress codes and everything that they share and do as a group outside of formal policy. We need to instill some objectivity in the group so they can see their own behaviours and question as a group the status quo. There are powerful subconscious forces at work in group dynamics so we need to do some consciousness work. One of the main points you need to teach is about social proof. This begins to open the mind to learning about sexual harassment in a way that isn’t about policies and bullet points – it is about personal values and self-awareness.
Save the exercises toward the end as the learners will have a basis to incorporate what they have learned during the session. You may find that asking questions of the room looking for examples or thoughts about the topic creates a quiet room. It is difficult to get the conversations started. Also, the gender mix matters in the room. A balanced room creates safety of expression and conversation can be facilitated with ease. Or have one gender in the room at a time to discuss gender sensitive topics and share information.
Relate to the people opening up and encourage a mature intelligent approach.
As a trainer or educator, you will need to be savvy in psychology, have good research skills, high emotional intelligence and have the ability to step outside the box. Develop a good presentation with a mix of media. Some videos on psychology have been particularly helpful for myself. The policy points never sell well. Inundating your clients with bullet points is hardly engaging so keep the rest of the presentation lively. Create a climate of safety early on or people will not respond to your questions or initiate a touch dialogue. Relate to the people opening up and encourage a mature intelligent approach. You can even use a sense of humour but monitor the language used so it doesn’t go into an embarrassing situation.
The first workshop is always the hardest. Get the right room with the technology you need. Generally, U shape setting works best. And work the room with your body language and tone of voice. With these points incorporated in the design of your session, you’ll do great. Let me know how it goes.