How Companies Can Prevent Sexual Harassment

The following is a portion of an article originally published by The Boston Globe on November 2, 2017 and contains comments from OperationsInc CEO David Lewis. To view the original article in its entirety, please click here

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by Scott Lehigh

One hopes the career consequences we’re seeing will serve as a warning to would-be harassers that this kind of behavior is no longer acceptable. But how to drive home that message on a more systematic basis?

One key, says David Lewis, CEO of OperationsInc, a prominent human resources consultancy, is for management to send a clear signal that even if boorish behavior has been tolerated in the past, it won’t be any longer. To be effective, however, that message has to come from the top down, he says. But in the thousands of sexual harassment awareness sessions Lewis has done in the past decade and a half, he says, “I can’t tell you how many times the chairs for the CEO and the C-suite have been empty.”

And when someone is fired for sexual harassment, firms shouldn’t keep the reason for their termination secret, says Ruettimann. Let employees know.

Another idea: Companies could hire outside human-resources consultants to conduct yearly confidential interviews with employees about the workplace atmosphere. (Include the interns, who are often the most vulnerable.) The consulting team could then give managers a sense of behaviors and concerns that need to be addressed.

Further, if anyone had been the target of harassment, they could identify the perpetrator anonymously. A firm obviously can’t fire someone based on an anonymous complaint. But the mere knowledge that such listening sessions would occur could have a deterrent effect. And if a particular employee were the subject of credible accusations, management would realize it had a problem. It could then ask the human resources consulting team to inform the victims that others had been similarly harassed and ask if they wanted to pursue a joint complaint.

It will take a concerted effort, but this epidemic has got to end.