The #MeToo movement has taken Hollywood and the larger business world by storm, and is already changing organizations for the better. As more young women expose sexual harassment (and worse) in their workplaces, companies have been forced to acknowledge what a large problem harassment has become in society. Many have already taken steps to protect themselves and their employees against sexual harassment in the workplace, but we will be feeling the effects of this movement for years to come.
Here are a few of the changes that we can expect to see in companies and organizations as a direct result of the #MeToo movement and the attention that it has received:
A Line in the Sand
While it is unfortunate that the threat of negative media attention had to become a driving force in convincing companies to address these issues, late is still better than never. The vast amount of attention that this issue has received has drawn a proverbial line in the sand — either organizations shape up and acknowledge that this issue exists and do something to remedy it, or they feel the effects of not doing so. Naturally, most companies will see the writing on the wall and make the changes that need to be made.
Accusations Will be Treated With Increased Importance
With some good fortune, the #MeToo movement will end the days of sexual harassment allegations being overlooked or pushed aside in the workplace. Legally, companies that overlook these serious accusations are putting themselves in a very poor position. Additionally, the negative media attention poses its own threat to organizations that refuse to do the right thing.
One immediate effect of the #MeToo movement is that sexual harassment allegations will see increased importance within HR departments, regardless of whether or not the company had previously had a great track record in this area. All companies are seeing how important this subject has become and will be taking steps to improve their responses.
To effectively fight against sexual harassment in the workplace, companies must empower middle-management to get the ball rolling. Management that feels compelled to pass the allegation off to another person within the company can leave gaps in the response and lead to serious issues being overlooked.
An inspiring letter from a CEO can only do so much. Companies will have to give their employees resources and authority to deal with situations as they arise. This will help create a culture in which employees feel safe reporting concerns and are able to talk to someone that knows them personally.
More Resources for Victims and Management
An organization’s ability to limit and deal with sexual harassment in the workplace begins with the resources that they make available to their employees. There are a few key resources that every organization should make available to their employees to ensure that processes are clear, and employees feel safe when reporting harassment.
- Harassment procedure and policy information. It’s important that your employees know what steps to take if they see or hear about sexual harassment in the workplace. By making this information easily accessible, and always working to improve policies based on feedback. Most incidents of sexual harassment do not get reported. Providing multiple channels to report through can be a great way to improve reporting for victims.
- Resources for all employees. All employees should be provided with comprehensive sexual harassment training materials and ongoing training on the subject. Companies may also look into providing support groups, or create a group specifically for the purpose of education in this area.
- Medical benefits. Let employees know about the medical benefits provided by the company and how those may apply to those that have been the victim of sexual harassment. Companies will need to arm employees with the right resources to ensure an incident does not have an ongoing adverse effect on their lives.
The more resources that organizations can make available to their teams, the better their responses will be to sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sexual Harassment Training and Re-Training
The most obvious step that companies will take in response to the #MeToo movement will come in the form of sexual harassment training and retraining. Most companies already provided sexual harassment training, but sessions may become longer and more in-depth as a result. Additionally, employees will be required to take retraining classes once they have reached a certain amount of time since their original training, or any time the company policy changes in regards to this issue.
Companies should evaluate their current sexual harassment training procedures and identify ways to improve. An in-depth review of the curriculum can go a long way toward establishing how important this issue is internally. Employees must understand that harassment can be perpetuated by anyone at any time, regardless of gender and standing within the company. Additionally, companies should identify how to convey third parties who witness harassment are obligated to report it.
Helping employees to understand the scope of harassment, and make the right decisions following an incident will help everyone within the company to feel safe and cared for while at work.
Culture Defines Success
Ultimately, it is the culture of the company that defines success in this space. It was the negative culture that led to the situations that made sexual harassment so prevalent in the workplace to begin with, and it will take a shift in that culture to see it diminished. Culture begins at the top of every organization. When executives reject harassment and make it their priority to stop it within their company, that decision will reverberate at all levels of the organization.
Changing a company’s culture takes time. It won’t happen overnight. But by instituting the changes like the ones discussed in this article, over time improvements will be made and employees will begin to see these incidents diminish. The #MeToo movement will change the way that business is done across the world, and offices will be a more enjoyable and safer environment as a result.