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EDITOR'S CORNER: Workplace harassment... what can be done?

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 148 NO.1 January/February


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For this first issue of 2018, Furniture World's Retail Editor Janet Holt-Johnstone suggested that I write about, “Something happy, up-beat, optimistic.” Instead, I decided to go in another direction.
I’m confident that many of you have given some recent thought to updating your workplace harassment policies and education.

Some states mandate that companies of a certain size do classroom or other “effective” training. But, even if your company is subject to such a mandate, the question becomes, is effective education even possible?

Having strong, clear policies and procedures in place and letting supervisors and line employees know about them, can be effective in protecting your company from liability, and provide some cover from PR disasters. That’s the good news.

The bad news is, a two-hour seminar is unlikely to change employees' undesirable behaviors. A recent article in “Scientific American” reported, “Training about sexual harassment often is also geared to increase employees’ attitudes about the seriousness of harassment... Unfortunately, research does not support these effects. Neither students nor working adults showed any change after training, in their personal attitudes about harassment or in their perceptions of organizational tolerance for it.“

It seems that corporations have a stronger track record of encouraging bad behavior than discouraging it. Punishment is not wholly effective in changing behaviors, because thoughts and feelings leading to inappropriate behavior are not typically under conscious control noted an article on this topic in "Psychology Today".

So, if personal attitudes are so hard to change, what can be done? Here are some suggestions:

  •  Address your organization's cultural environment.

  • Make sure everyone knows that top management takes this issue very seriously.

  • Set clear objectives so employees know what you expect.

  • Encourage employees to “own” the process.

  • Encourage dialogue.

Please let me know your thoughts, policies, success or failures with regard to this issue. As always, your comments will be appreciated!

Regards,


Russell Bienenstock
Editorial Director/CEO
russ@furninfo.com

Russell Bienenstock is Editor-in-Chief of Furniture World Magazine, founded 1870. Comments can be directed to him at editor@furninfo.com.
Read other articles by Russell Bienenstock