#MeToo has been one of the biggest movements in modern history. Since the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, dozens of women are coming out with their stories. And, it isn’t only in the Hollywood bubble where this is happening. Businesses around the world are beginning to feel the impact as women unite against harassment. A regular, run-of-the-mill company is changing in ways which are hard to comprehend for some people.
Equality is a basic human right and bosses need to get behind the movement. Not only is there a moral issue but a common sense one too. It’s logical to ensure everyone in the office is happy and safe and can work to the best of their ability. Still, it doesn’t mean the transition is going to be straightforward. There have been decades of the status quo, so alterations are going to go against the grain.
Every business needs its employees to interact with one another to be successful. Avoiding genders to bypass awkward interactions isn’t the answer. The key is to work together in a healthy and non-threatening manner. Here are five ways bosses can promote this atmosphere in the #MeToo era.
Promote The Policies
There is a myth that companies will have to rip up their rules and regulations and start again. Hopefully, this doesn’t apply to your business. Otherwise, it implies there was never a policy regarding harassment in the workplace, which is dangerous. Almost every firm on the planet, whether big or small, should have codified rules concerning workplace behavior.
The difference now is that they need circulating more than before. One thing which is clear is that people are unaware of how to act. Men are scared they will inadvertently say something which will be perceived as offensive. Well, they will have nothing to fear as long as they understand the terms and conditions. You may need to put fliers up advertising the fact, or you may want to send them to their email account. Some workplaces will need employee training to instill a positive attitude.
Remember it is your job to ensure everyone knows how to act in the office. As obvious as it sounds, it’s amazing how many “leaders” don’t provide the relevant materials.
Understanding that you need to promote policies is one thing, but doing it is another thing entirely. The message has to stick if it is going to make a difference to the atmosphere. So, getting the whole office to sit and listen to a speech might not be effective. It isn’t what the person has to say isn’t important, but the delivery can be boring. Creativity often grabs their attention and keeps it for a sustained period.
Video content is without a doubt an effective tool. Listening and reading are old-school and not in line with modern values. People want interaction and engagement in their lives or else they turn off regardless of the topic. As harsh as it sounds, it’s the truth. E-Learning has been around for a short while yet its success has been impressive. Why? It’s because it provides an experience which isn’t dull or monotonous.
Some businesses use actors to go one step further. Acting out a scene in front of an audience is a novel tactic which also spells out what is right and what is wrong.
Give Them One Chance
The heading is a reference to a rule which Google and Facebook have adopted with positive results. The “one chance” rule is for coworkers that are romantically involved. Both parties get a single opportunity to make it work. Should it go sour, neither the guy nor the girl is allowed to restart the relationship. Not now, not later, not ever. If it doesn’t work out, then it’s a purely platonic, business connection.
What’s clever about this rule is that it doesn’t ban relationships outright. Even though there has been a lot of backlash in recent months, the workplace is a romantic place. Men and women spend lots of time together and share common interests. There is bound to be a connection which can lead to more than friendship.
Almost 50% of employees have had a workplace encounter at some stage in their careers. Outlawing isn’t the answer if everyone can be respectful and understand the nuances.
Or Ban It
On the flip side, plenty of companies have a “no dating” policy because it’s easy. By banning relationships in the office, there is no need to worry about tricky accusations. Yes, there might be situations where HR gets involved due to inappropriate behavior. A ban doesn’t prevent improper interactions. However, the bosses can make a straightforward decision because there is a line and they know where it is drawn. The one chance option is trickier to manage.
Some companies go further and outline policies on physical touching. Although this seems extreme, there is an argument that certain gestures are unprofessional. For example, a consensual hug is a very personal thing between two colleagues. It’s usually best to leave it for outside of the office with friends and loved ones. A handshake is a perfect middle ground.
You might want to focus on more than physical contact, too. Sexting or cyber harassment is on the rise and needs addressing at work.
Have A Conversation
Managers are nervous about the changes because of a lack of communication. Bosses hear something in the press and assume it is going to be the case. Not everything you read or hear is true, especially if it comes from a newspaper. Remember that everyone, including women, is trying to navigate the new environment.
As a result, it’s wise to sit down with employees and speak to them about consent. Yes, it’s awkward and uncomfortable and you might ruffle a few feathers in the process. However, it’s better to do that than to presume individuals know how to act in the workplace.
Address the specifics which aren’t covered in the company policies. Also, speak in plain English so that everyone can understand and doesn’t have to read between the lines.
How has your company reacted to the changes?