We work so much with workplace harassment prevention that my staff has become quite the experts. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when Anne, my curriculum specialist, brought a The Washington Post article to my attention last week about workplace harassment.
In the article written by Erin Wade of The Mac + Cheese Cookbook, Ms. Wade discusses how proud she had been about having created a safe, diverse workplace, until her bubble burst when she discovered there had been a number of workplace harassment complaints by waitresses alleging customer impropriety. The immediate supervisors hadn’t dealt effectively with them, nor were they passing them on to Ms. Wade. Let’s think for a minute. When we give an employee the title “supervisor”, the employee now has delegated authority to make decisions on behalf of the company. In this case, the supervisor decision was to ignore a workplace harassment complaint in order not to offend a customer.
Our supervisory training for workplace harassment prevention says that supervisors and managers need to share all workplace harassment concerns “up” the management chain and not “filter” out those they think are less significant. The reason is simple. How can you prove you’re taking workplace harassment accusations seriously if you’re not reporting them to the owner who bears the ultimate expense if the supervisor, in his or her limited experience (and limited knowledge of anti-discrimination law), wrongly evaluates the impact of the workplace harassment complaint?
Part of that limited experience is that you and I will not necessarily understand what is offensive to cultural groups that are different from us, even if we’ve had the training. This was brought home to me years ago in a diversity class when the trained diversity moderator, in response to my response to a question, used the words “narrow-minded rural” in reference to a small town which she’d not visited. We need to bring workplace harassment issues “up” because we don’t have all the understanding in one person to emotionally “get” what might legitimately be offensive to someone “not exactly like me”, even if we share a gender, skin color, or so on. And that doesn’t mean guilty until proven innocent, as social media seems to indicate; but it does give an opportunity to see if there’s an issue and then to find the best solution to resolve it.
Maybe it’s time to talk WPH Workplace Harassment prevention with us?