What's the best way to prevent sexual harassment at work?
A strict code of conduct and a culture of intolerance for that kind of behavior may be the answer. It doesn't hurt to let everyone on the payroll know that silence equals complicity. If a staff member knows that sexual harassment is happening or is witness to an act of sexual harassment, he or she is expected to report it. Failing to do so is also a violation of the code of conduct and grounds for dismissal.
To some people, that sounds particularly harsh because it makes each employee a company watchdog -- forced to snitch on each other if they become aware of sexually-oriented misbehavior.
From the perspective of victims and companies, however, the measure is a much-needed change.
For example, the network giant NBC, which is reeling in the wake of sexual-harassment allegations against some of its most prominent staff members, has reacted by enforcing exactly these sorts of zero-tolerance rules.
Not everyone is happy about the changes, especially the part about shared responsibility for letting superiors know about any office romances, sexual liaisons or sexually oriented antics that go on. They also resent rules about appropriate office conduct, including things like how co-workers can share a hug without crossing a line.
Unfortunately, until it becomes the norm to not tolerate or turn a blind eye to sexual harassment, that's probably exactly what companies will have to do.
The mindset that has allowed sexual harassment to flourish in places like NBC and other large companies often puts victims at a disadvantage. Even though many people may be aware of the sexual shenanigans, victims may be expected to stay silent and not make waves. Those that do speak up are penalized by damage to their career for not being team players.
While changes in expectations and new rules on hugging may seem hard to adjust to at first, the ultimate goal is to create a workplace in which victims are protected -- and those who sexually harass others can no longer count on a culture of tolerance and silence to protect them.
If you're struggling with sexual harassment in your workplace, consider exploring your legal options and get advice on the next steps to take.
Source: Page SIx, "NBC orders staff to rat out misbehaving colleagues or be fired," Emily Smith, Dec. 25, 2017