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View sensitivity training as an opportunity

Nothing is likely to make at least half the office -- probably the males -- groan louder than the words "sensitivity training" and "mandatory" when used in the same sentence.

However, that's exactly what employees at Fox News were hearing shortly after political pundit, Bill O'Reilly, was forced from his job and talk show amid allegations of long-term sexual abuse.

Fox Network says the training is designed to keep a professional workplace. Given that the network has lost at least $13 million already on the women who've made allegations against O'Reilly and the effect that all the seamy headlines have had on the company's reputation, the step is probably long overdue.

How can you make sensitivity training important enough to your employees so that they'll actually pay attention? There are several different things you can try:

-- Make it clear that everyone is attending the training and that support starts at the top. That means even the top-level executives need to attend.

-- Get an interactive trainer. It's hard to feel connected to a video presentation. If you hire live instructors, you may have better engagement from your employees.

-- Make examples specific. Using role-playing, customizing the examples of what is and is not harassment according to your company's workplace and showing employees the difference between overt sexual harassment and subtle sexual harassment will help keep them engaged and make it easier for your employees to apply what they know to actual situations.

-- Make sure that your employees know that your business could lose a lot if it earns a reputation for not taking equality seriously and being permissive about discrimination. The Fox Network, for example, has become the topic of many sarcastic comments and jokes ever since it was revealed that O'Reilly's behavior was known and tolerated for decades.

Getting a commitment from every employee to consciously work against an atmosphere that's permissive of discrimination and harassment is important for the long-term survival of any company these days.

If you find yourself being sexually harassed at work, an attorney can provide information on how you can proceed.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Facts About Sexual Harassment," accessed May 19, 2017

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