Address Harassment + Discrimination Head On: Create A Culture Of Empathy And Respect

In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the ongoing issues that continue to surface across a range of industries, we get many questions about how leaders can fight harassment in the workplace.

My answer is always the same: don’t just create sexual harassment policies, change the culture. Establish high standards of behavior and commit to diversity and inclusion. Directly address fairness issues and talk openly and often about company values. Hold everyone accountable for these standards – board members, executives, employees – and even vendors and customers. 

Unfortunately, most companies have a long way to go to create such a culture. Gender Fair, a Notion partner firm that rates companies on their fairness practices, estimates that only 16 percent of today’s companies currently meet the standards of best-in-class fairness practices.

Five critical moments to show empathy with employees

So what does a fair workplace culture look like? Successful companies ensure that every employee feels empathy and respect throughout their career, but particularly at these five critical moments: 

1.     Joining the company

2.     Receiving performance feedback

3.     Being promoted 

4.     Going through a major life change

5.     Moving into a leadership position

Making a commitment to a fair and inclusive culture

To maintain high cultural standards during these five critical moments, companies must invest in the management and coaching behaviors that help them deliver the right outcomes: 

1.     They must help leaders learn to listen, ask questions, practice self-awareness, and honor the perspectives and experiences of others.

2.     They must develop and reinforce practices and policies that enable empathy, supporting the employee at every stage of their journey.

3.     And finally, they must address those who cannot uphold these standards, so that the consequences of inappropriate behavior are clear and consistent across the organization.  

When companies take proactive steps to a culture of empathy, they should address harassment and discrimination in the workplace. When they treat employees at every touchpoint with trust and respect, empower their leaders with the right tools and training, and address problems head on, they can help minimize the possibility of another #MeToo situation.