Ready for some mansplaining? Good, because I’m a guy, and damn, it seems like companies are having a hard time avoiding gender-related harassment. So I’m here to help.
I’m referring to s*x**l harassment, but I have to call it gender-related harassment because a lot of you have email filters at the corporate level that won’t allow content in with the word s*x**l. You know, because you can’t be trusted. As a result, you end up missing good stuff like this and Marvin Gaye videos your friends might send you. Sucks to be you. But I digress.
It seems that after the Uber fiasco(s), there’s not a week that goes by where we don’t have another male exec come crashing down because he directly or indirectly gives female employees the creepers. And if male execs are acting like fools, imagine the humanity 3-10 levels below them.
But you don’t have to be a victim if you’re a board member of a company and you want to make sure you have the right path going forward. Here’s your road map to become as harassment-free as possible (gender version):
- Get some female board representation and some female inclusion on your leadership team. If you’re raising your hand and saying your HR leader is a girl, it’s not enough. Go get more. Create a new position if you have to, but go get a great female board member and leadership team member.
- Make sure everyone goes through harassment training again, but make your training real. Turns out, a lot of claims happen related to stuff that’s never covered in your current harassment training stack. Maybe you should cover Bob making a comment about an actress he saw on TV last night over the cube farm or a manager out for drinks with his team. Call creepers. Get real.
- Make your leadership team sign agreements that say they give up a portion of their guaranteed separation benefits if it’s ever determined that they’ve acted in a way that contributes to an environment conducive to harassment.
- Go get people who can conduct investigations when claims of harassment come up. One of the biggest objections you’ll face is the fact that in America, as I like to say, “allegations are free”. Anyone can make a claim, and harassment is full of shades of gray. You need people – either in HR or in Legal – who can question people and get the truth like they’ve got the subject hooked up to a car battery with their feet in tub of cold water. Unfortunately, that’s frowned upon last time I checked. You’re going to have to make a lot of calls on “gray-area” investigation results, so go find some pros that can get to the truth and help you determine if someone needs to go.
- Fire some people. I know this doesn’t feel great, but after those investigative pros dig in and tell you they believe the female in question, you’re going to have to go through a period where you fire everyone who was investigated and found to probably have been a creep. If you want to eliminate as much creeper activity as you can long-term, some people are going to have to go. They don’t have to go home, but they can’t stay here.
- Make your Marketing and Comms team cover all the things that you’ve accomplished in 1-5 with internal comms tools. Smart people celebrate – market – their good faith efforts without shame.
- Make sure your leaders are front and center in the Marketing Comms efforts, telling people “we’re going after anyone who makes people feel uncomfortable” in the workplace. I know, I know – people are going to get too PC. Well, maybe your leaders could mention that it’s not a warlock-hunt (opposite of witch-hunt, right?) and we want people to be themselves, unless they suck, at which time we’d like them to act like someone else 100% of the time.
It’s not that hard. It does mean you have to take on people who give other people the creepers. It’s easy to do, but to do it well is more of an art – you’re not looking for robots in the workplace, you’re just looking for people who aren’t creepy.
You can do it.
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.