Harassment Training Doesn’t Work

Harassment Training Doesn’t Work 150 150 Diane McNally

harassment training

Harassment Training Doesn’t Work

This may be HR heresy, but I’m completely convinced that traditional “harassment training” is highly ineffective and may actually act as an obstacle to creating workplace engagement.  Yes, an actual hindrance to a healthy workplace ecosystem.  Let me explain.

I wish I had a nickel for every hour of harassment training I have either facilitated or attended; I would have one, big pile of nickels.  In retrospect, those sessions were at least uncomfortable if not downright disconcerting.  In most cases, they served to “check the box” for legal or compliance reasons or were done as a reaction to some episode of bad behavior.  There was very little focus on the root cause of workplace harassment and these sessions did not provide any useful tools to create a sustainable, positive workplace climate.

I think it is long past time to stop the silly videos, the humiliating “fishbowl” exercises and the man-bashing.  Time to stop asking employees to endure cringe-worthy role plays and please, can we stop the legal diatribes about lawsuits and bad PR?

Let’s shift the focus to what really matters in creating a positive workplace; CULTURE.  This is what all those hours of harassment training missed.  Instead of harping about compliance and legal issues or “what not to do”, we would do better to focus on what we stand for as an organization, not just what we are against.

I recently watched an interview with Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi.  He seized upon culture to address Uber’s serious organizational issues that he inherited when taking on the CEO job.  He quickly went to work to engage his team in creating new Cultural Norms that articulate some “rules of engagement” for working in a collaborative way and holding everyone accountable for advocating for the new norms.  That’s the key.  Engaging in continuous, authentic dialogue about the workplace and our values is a far better answer than forcing contrived and outdated “training” on employees.

So, let’s stop the madness of scare tactics in outdated training sessions.  They do not work!  We have countless examples of that.  If they did, why are we continuing to see and hear about outrageous behavior in the workplace?

Let’s come together around an honest discussion on our values, how we live those values, what we stand for, and what we will stand up for.  Let’s talk about how we create an organization that will allow us to be at our best and do what’s right.

Bring your team together to start the discussion.  Keep your team together by fostering a culture in which they thrive.

As for that harassment training, it’s time to rethink that.  Use your time and resources on the culture.  The rest will take care of itself.