Monday, May 21, 2018

Harassment prevention MUST start at the top

If you did not watch 60 Minutes last night, you should. The last segment detailed pervasive and rampant sexual harassment by famed chef and tv personality Mario Batali.

And it laid much of the blame at the feet of the CEO of one of the restaurants in which Batali invested, The Spotted Pig, and its owners, Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield. The segment argues that Friedman and Bloomfield turned a blind eye to years of Batali’s sexual harassment of the female employees of their restaurant, and knowingly allowed it to continue.

In the report of the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, the agency suggests four pillars to any effective anti-harassment program. Its first pillar is that harassment prevention “starts at the top.”

According to the EEOC:
Workplace culture has the greatest impact on allowing harassment to flourish, or conversely, in preventing harassment.… Organizational cultures that tolerate harassment have more of it, and workplaces that are not tolerant of harassment have less of it.… If leadership values a workplace free of harassment, then it will ensure that harassing behavior against employees is prohibited as a matter of policy; that swift, effective, and proportionate responses are taken when harassment occurs; and that everyone in the workplace feels safe in reporting harassing behavior. Conversely, leaders who do not model respectful behavior, who are tolerant of demeaning conduct or remarks by others, or who fail to support anti-harassment policies with necessary resources, may foster a culture conducive to harassment.

If you believe the 60 Minutes report (I have no reason not to), none of this occurred at The Spotted Pig.

If you want ensure you are doing everything you can as an organization, start by taking a hard look at yourself and your leadership, and answering these key questions:
  • Do you foster an organizational culture in which harassment is not tolerated, and in which respect and civility are promoted?
  • Does you behavior communicate and model a consistent anti-harassment commitment?
  • Have you devoted sufficient resources to effective harassment prevention efforts? 
  • Have you nurtured an environment in which employees are comfortable coming forward with complaints of harassment that will be taken seriously, investigated, and corrected, all free from retaliation?
  • Do you impose swift, proportional, and consistent discipline (without playing favorites or showing favoritism) when you have found harassment to have occurred?
  • Do you hold managers and supervisors accountable for preventing and responding to workplace harassment?

Unless you’ve answered “yes” to each of these six questions, then I suggest that you are not doing everything you can to create a top-down, holistic, anti-harassment strategy. Which means that you are not doing everything you can to protect your most valuable asset … your employees.

*Photo by Lane Smith on Unsplash