Two Approaches to Workplace Harassment: Can't Win/Don't Try, or Knowing Your Audience

At the EEOC Excel conference in Atlanta this week, I’m hearing a lot about what different practitioners are doing to build inclusive, equitable workplaces.  Today I had two very different conversations with two people who are responsible for preventing workplace harassment in their (very large) organizations, one a public entity, one private, both in transportation. The person who worked for a private business told me that she can’t get people to care about preventing harassment because in her business, there’s a premium on not snitching, and reporting harassment is considered snitching.  For her, the problem seemed too vast to tackle.

The second conversation was with Jonaura Wisdom, Chief Civil Rights Officer at Metro, Los Angeles’s public transportation system. Jonaura had a vastly different take on dealing with this issue, starting with the commitment she received from Metro’s chief that preventing harassment would be a priority under his tenure (pro tip 1: preventing harassment does not happen without a visible commitment from leadership).  Next, she mentioned that when she does training on harassment prevention, she talks about how transit is tied to the history of civil rights in America, from Rosa Parks to transportation access as a right (pro tip 2: if you want behavior change, connecting that change to your values and your organizational mission is critical).  Finally, she talked about the campaign that Metro launched this week to prevent harassment, the Level Up campaign (yes, that’s Ciara you hear in your head – and when you open the campaign poster), with the tagline “respect, respond, report.”  The campaign encourages Metro employees to take responsibility for creating the workplace culture and climate that they want to experience. It’s a great example of creating a message that’s authentic and that resonates both with the existing and aspirational workplace culture.  Check out Metro’s poster here (and turn the sound up!).

"It's time to change the conversation around 'difficult' names."

Kumail Nanjiani. Saoirse Ronan. Zach Galifianakis. You've already learned how to pronounce these names, right? In this piece by N'Jameh Camara in Teen Vogue, Camara talks about how her Gambian name isn't "hard to pronounce," it's unpracticed. One excellent, powerful way to demonstrate inclusion and show your respect is to learn how to pronounce your colleagues names, and say them. And it’s not just the person who’s name you correctly pronounce who notices- others around you will as well.

Sorry Not Sorry! (A great listen from Harvard Business Review's Women at Work podcast)

Are you a regular listener to Harvard Business Review’s Women at Work podcast? I can’t recommend it enough. In a recent episode, they host a discussion about whether women apologize more than men in the workplace, the minimizing language women use at the office and advice on how to break the habit. But - they don’t leave it there. They have a discussion guide and a link to the podcast, which you can find here. Grab your take out, find a conference room and debrief with your colleagues. It’ll be worth it.

The One Big Predictor of Sexual Harassment in The Workplace (And What Individuals Can Do About It)

Since January I’ve facilitated more than three dozen workshops on respectful workplaces — workshops aimed at changing behavior, resetting norms and recalibrating expectations in the workplace about all forms of harassment. One thing I’ve noticed is that participants want facts, and they want solutions. People want to understand why harassment happens and what they can do to make it stop. Read More.

Audrey Roofeh Selected as a 2019 Tory Burch Foundation Fellow

On May 21, the Tory Burch Foundation announced the 50 early-stage women entrepreneurs selected for the fourth-annual Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program.

The entrepreneurs participate in a year-long fellowship, receive access to the Foundation’s online peer-to-peer network, and a $5,000 grant for business education. In June, the Fellows will spend four days at the Tory Burch offices for workshops and mentoring with business leaders from Google, Spotify, Whole Foods and more.

You can read Audrey Roofeh’s fellowship profile here.

Speaking Up As A Bystander

Speaking up as a bystander to workplace harassment is a powerful tool for change, and it doesn't have to be complicated. Here are some responses from recent workshop participants (I particularly love the "um." It's authentic.)


Accreditation of USC Medical School Cardiovascular Fellowship Stripped Following Alleged Failure to Properly Address Sexual Assault

The LA Times is reporting that the national accreditation panel for medical education has made a final decision to revoke USC medical school’s fellowship in cardiovascular disease, a jointly run program with LA County. With the loss of accreditation, the fellowship will shut down. According to the Times, “[t]he panel did not publicly state the reasons for the action. But it comes a year after revelations that a medical resident had accused a fellow in the program of sexual assault and alleged officials didn’t take her case seriously.”

Additionally, the accrediting body “also took the rare step of imposing immediate probation on the fellowship’s sponsoring institutions, USC and the L.A. County-USC Medical Center, concluding they ‘failed to demonstrate substantial compliance’ with unspecified requirements.” Read more here:

The Power of Inclusion

Inclusion goes a long way towards healing, and we’re seeing that happen right now after the terrorist attack that killed 50 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last week. Only one percent of New Zealand’s population of nearly 5 million people identify as Muslim, but a remarkable effort by the individuals and institutions leading the country is underway to demonstrate the power of inclusion.

Newspapers have printed front-page greetings in Arabic, and details on Muslim burial practices and religious rituals. The national television and radio broadcasted the Muslim call to prayer, and leaders and news hosts have led with greetings of as-salaam alaykum.

And then there’s the haka. I didn't know that New Zealanders generally learn haka, traditional, ceremonial Maori dance, even if they don’t have a personal Maori heritage, or that it would be appropriate as part of healing and remembrance for victims of last week's mass shooting. But that seems to be just what’s happening; in addition, the New Zealand Maori Council called for a nationwide haka to be performed today to commemorate one week since the massacre. This powerful, inclusive response to a massacre is worth paying attention to.