Tuesday, April 9, 2019

To help end sexual harassment, men MUST be better in reporting it when they witness it

"Dad, something bad happened at recess today!"

It's a refrain I sometimes hear at the dinner table.

"Donovan, what happened?"

"Joe pushed Billy off the swing, and Billy cut his knee when he fell."

"Did anyone let a teacher know what happened?"


"Why not?"

"I didn't because I didn't want to be a tattletale."

I've had this conversation with both of my kids — the difference between being a tattletale and reporting an unsafe situation.

According to a recent report, as many as 50 percent of men do absolutely nothing when they witness sexual harassment in the workplace. This needs to stop.

According to the EEOC, bystander intervention can be key in stopping workplace sexual harassment:

Bystander intervention trainings employ at least four strategies:
  • Create awareness - enable bystanders to recognize potentially problematic behaviors.
  • Create a sense of collective responsibility - motivate bystanders to step in and take action when they observe problematic behaviors.
  • Create a sense of empowerment - conduct skills-building exercises to provide bystanders with the skills and confidence to intervene as appropriate.
  • Provide resources - provide bystanders with resources they can call upon and that support their intervention.

Such training could help employees identify unwelcome and offensive behavior that is based on a co-workers' protected characteristic under employment non-discrimination laws; could create a sense of responsibility on the part of employees to "do something" and not simply stand by; could give employees the skills and confidence to intervene in some manner to stop harassment; and finally, could demonstrate the employer's commitment to empowering employees to act in this manner. Bystander training also affords employers an opportunity to underscore their commitment to non-retaliation by making clear that any employee who "steps up" to combat harassment will be protected from negative repercussions.

We need to empower all of our employees, regardless of gender, to speak up when they witness inappropriate workplace behavior. "See something, say something," is a mantra we need to drill into our employees' heads. Employers cannot stop harassment they know nothing about. The victim may be too intimidated or afraid to speak up; all must own a sense of responsibility and empowerment to speak up for them.

* Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash