Saying "No!" Starts at the Top

avoiding sexual harassment in workplace

Heading into the New Year I intended my topic to be an encouragement for managers to better understand the importance of the word “no.” As in, teach your managers better time management by learning to say “no” to requests that stray from their job description. However, in light of the recent spate of sexual harassment allegations sweeping our country, I want to discuss another topic on which to say “no.”

Few would argue against workplace safety and security being of extreme importance for any successful organization. That said, there’s no way to eliminate sexism in the workplace until and unless everyone has a solid understanding of all that qualifies as harassment, sexual or otherwise. For example, some of your workers may think that casual comments to female employees like calling them ‘babe’ or ‘sweetheart’ isn’t something that might be considered sexual harassment… but it is.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “sexual harassment can range from unwelcome sexual advances to verbal conduct of a sexual nature if it interferes with work or creates a hostile environment.” As we’ve seen of late, female employees have long been repressing their outrage over what many men apparently considered to be acceptable behavior.

Besides creating that hostile environment the EEOC speaks to, a host of other negatives come into play when any kind of workplace harassment is condoned or tolerated. Although current news has primarily focused on sexual matters, any disparagement of cultures, nationalities, color, weight and more can be equally insidious. As has been seen, allowing harassment to take place on your watch can end up being very expensive, perhaps even years from now. Also important is that if negatives are allowed to exist in your work environment your organization will not ‘be all it can be.’

The buck stops at the top: Company management needs provide clear guidelines concerning actions that will not be tolerated. Then, don’t tolerate them. When you know when to say “NO!” you’ll find you will have a smoother running organization both today and in the long term.

WSA Members know the educational and business improvement practices they have available to them. Non-members don’t know what they’re missing.