After several months of news coverage and conversations regarding workplace harassment claims, I am struck by the emotion this topic evokes. The most painful, of course, are from the victims; but also impactful are the reactions from many business leaders who recognize the negative effects of harassment on their brand; particularly if the news of harassment hit the media the way the high profile cases have dominated the latest news cycle. In addition, business leaders are considering the impact harassment has on their employees’ morale and overall productivity. Looking for a positive outcome in the ashes of the high profile careers highlighted through sexual harassment claims, my hope is for employers to hear the cautionary tales and take this opportunity to stand in front of the issue by reclaiming their company cultures.
Company culture is often left to be an implied rather than expressed set of beliefs and rules that influence how employees behave and interact with each other and with external customers. In that sense, company culture can not only influence but also drive behavior. When considering the power company culture has on productivity, it is something that should not be left to evolve on its own without a healthy dose of strong leadership sending intentional messages through words and behaviors that help define the company culture. Among the positive messages should be a clear, strong message of zero tolerance for harassment. In addition, leaders can equip others in their organization to recognize and respond appropriately to suspected harassment in order to ensure a safe and productive workplace where every employee has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to their fullest ability without impact to their emotional, physical or financial health.
Please take this opportunity to review your anti-harassment policy, provide training, and stand in front of this issue as the leader with a strong message that may very well improve your company’s productivity and bottom line.