The workplace has experienced a global paradigm shift with the #ME TOO movement. The zero – tolerance approach adopted by corporations, non-profits and government entities is a step in the right direction to eradicate harassment in the workplace, but it is not enough.
The reverberating effect of these cases has impacted the workplace in a way few are discussing publicly but which I am managing with clients daily. That is, how do men and women now work together? What is the “new” workplace etiquette? Is innocent flirting ok? May I hug someone? Is it appropriate for a male boss to have lunch/dinner/drinks with a female employee? How do I set personal boundaries and express those to others? All good questions and an opportunity to change workplace culture for the better.
My experience investigating harassment allegations is that often a misunderstanding in the form of an inappropriate comment, a failed attempt to initiate a workplace romance, a joke one considers crude escalates to a harassment complaint. This may happen for a few reasons; leadership discourages a culture of open communication and respect, the offended individual is intimidated and unsure of how to communicate their feelings, the one offending fails to understand how their actions are impacting others. In response, I have revised our anti-harassment training to identify not only the legal risks and appropriate workplace policy and investigation methods, but also focus on workplace communication, personal boundaries, emotional intelligence and mutual respect.
Together, let’s work toward banishing harassment from the workplace.