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!).