Resolution Blog by Lesley Allport and Katherine Graham.
A new study has claimed 44% of UK business directors haven’t had any training on workplace harassment (as well as 28% of non-managers, according to Navex Global). In our current state of anxiety over workplace relationships, media reports have called this a “shocking” statistic.
Is it really? It sounds quite high for senior staff training on an issue like this. What really matters is whether and how workplaces are changing, what leads to more trust, confidence and a better place to work.
Being pushed into training in what constitutes inappropriate behaviour can look and feel condescending for employees, whatever level they’re at. The issue isn’t so much that people don’t know what’s inappropriate, but what they’re supposed to do about it. We’re all involved with tangles of relationships affected by status and responsibilities and work pressures that make clear-thinking – and honesty – complicated.
What’s actually needed is better conversational intelligence: employees with the skills to speak up in constructive ways about any challenges from an early stage; managers who are able to deal with difficult conversations. As a consequence, that means the ability to avoid conflict and the time-consuming, stress-creating formal processes that typically are the only way organisations know how to respond.
Crucially when it comes to cases of harassment, better conversation skills also mean the basis for more openness. Formal, process-driven cultures lead to more secrecy and the kinds of working conditions where problem situations are able to degenerate. Just pointing a finger at the evils of harassment in itself only encourages secrecy, more people working harder to stay under the radar, and more insidious forms of bullying and harassment.
The best response from HR would include: