Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Staffing Industry: The Failure of Anti-Harassment Training

In my last post, I discussed how the staffing industry is similar to Hollywood in that its very nature leaves room for sexual misconduct, being a people business — and a highly competitive one at that. In this post, I discuss why one HR’s primary tools in preventing sexual harassment in the workplace falls flat.

Have you taken the online anti-harassment training required by your company? Did that training leave you feeling confident you could identify and deal with sexual harassment? I’m guessing that the majority of you don’t think so. It’s not surprising.

The problem is that all those online, timed-by-section anti-harassment training programs are completed by most in the quickest and off-hand fashion possible just so employees and companies can check off a box. These trainings are two-dimensional and not effective. Not to mention ridiculous. The examples usually provided are ludicrous and unrealistic, and induce more laughter and immaturity about this critical topic and gaming of the system than a genuine focus on the task at hand deserves.

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I admit I don’t know the methodology behind the development of such training and why the questions typically asked are presented the way they are. What I can tell you, however, is the aforementioned response to them is real — I’ve felt it, as have others I have talked to and managed. Whatever the reasoning behind those trainings, it’s getting lost in the sea of those off-the-shelf, hypothetical examples. And the timed questions? I’d bet money most people answer the question and then go on to answer emails or do other work while the time runs out. This important hands-on training is not getting the attention it deserves.

I think it can be done a better way. Instead of a slew of automated questions, for the training to have real impact, examine real-life examples happening at your organization, with clients, on skype, etc. I also encourage you to review and update your organization’s code of conduct and sexual harassment rules. And while you are doing that, remember that sexual harassment is not just an internal issue. Many times, code of conduct and sexual harassment rules only cover internal harassment, foregoing the external. Further, when delivering training and roleplays, the examples must not only be believable, but they must also put everyone into the shoes of all involved. As embarrassing and down-right uncomfortable it may be, people need to experience being the offender, the offended, and an observer, as they rotate through real-world, practical and actionable scenarios.

Oh, and by the way, this is not a cue to go and tell your HR team to figure out a better method. This is not just HR’s job. This is everyone’s job. It’s a top-down, bottom-up, side-to-side issue — and everyone must participate. It is also important to remember that HR has dual-loyalties, they listen to the employees, but their main job is to protect the company. According to a recent NPR article, this stance is “not evil, it’s self-preservation … One lawsuit can kill a company.” So, if the whole company works to educate and de-normalize sexual misconduct, it helps HR help everyone, the company and the employees.

It’s why I have designed my own anti-sexual harassment training, Confidence360. Stay tuned for my next post to learn more!

MORE: When ‘me, too’ leads to complaints by or against a contingent worker

Dana Shaw-Arimoto

Dana Shaw-Arimoto
Dana Shaw-Arimoto, founder and CEO of Phoenix5 LLC, is an executive and leadership team coach, Talent Eco advisor, speaker and author. She can be reached at dana (at) phoenix5th (dot) com.

Dana Shaw-Arimoto
Dana Shaw-Arimoto, founder and CEO of Phoenix5 LLC, is an executive and leadership team coach, Talent Eco advisor, speaker and author. She can be reached at dana (at) phoenix5th (dot) com.

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