Dear Evil Skippy:
I manage Human Resources for a mid-sized organization. Our employees all work in our office or in the field doing consumer-related research. I am trying to convince the company president that we should we should incorporate formal anti-harassment training in the session. She has been resistant to include the training during orientation and thinks our handbook does enough. You’ve worked in this field for so long, I think she might be swayed if you gave me two thumbs up.
L.T. (not my real initials)
How careful you are – fake initials. Between you and me, it would have met a higher level of privacy and safety if you hadn’t told us all that the initials are not really you.
It is a good thing you hid your identity because I want to slap you. “For so long”? Are you calling me elderly? I am going to get some fiber and take a nap to deal with this offense. Answer your own damn question.
Please accept my most sincere apology for ES’s terrible attitude today. He took too long of a break and forgot to maintain his usual level of barely-minimal civility.
I commend you for your desire to include harassment training at an early stage of your employees’ employment. I also sympathize with the company president who is looking at a much bigger picture. She may be concerned that with so many things the new employees need to learn, spending a lot of time on the harassment rules is not justifiable.
So here is where semantics comes in. Stop calling it harassment “training”. Instead, call it Communicating Expectations and tell the company president that you will include a “brief explanation” of the company’s expectations regarding employee behavior at work – which will include the harassment policy. Brief can be ten minutes and that should me more than enough time.
I recently saw this in action when I had the opportunity to sit in on an interview and hiring session conducted by a performing arts organization. A company executive interviewed and auditioned a group of candidates. After the hiring decision was made, the executive met with everyone who received an offer and explained what would happen during the next few days. She also communicated in no uncertain terms the company’s expectation that no one engage in harassing behavior and that anyone who experienced such behavior should report it immediately to her or any other company leader. It was strong, it was clear, it was brief and it did not sound like it had been drafted by an attorney.
Companies do need to conduct formal harassment training in order to maintain certain defenses in case a harassment case ends up in court. However, they also need to show that they are truly committed to creating and maintaining a work environment that is not tainted by harassing behavior. Making a strong statement about the company’s harassment policy during recruitment and the hiring process is a great part of doing that.
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