Since I write about workplace issues, I not only follow news in the United States but also in other countries. Yesterday I came across an article in the Mail online, click here to read article, (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2323698/Council-office-manager-suspended-biting-employee-24-BOTTOM-forcing-tetanus-jab.html) that illustrates even the proper Britain’s have problems with workplace harassment
Apparently a male office worker, age 24, screamed in pain when his female manager “sunk her teeth into his bum.” I just love the way the English can make, what we in the US would refer to as a “bite on the a–” seem not quite so bad. While I may kid about the manner in which the incident is described in the newspaper, this is a serious issue. Although the incident was referred to as “horseplay that went too far”, this type of conduct (I am referring to unwelcome touching not necessarily “bum biting”) goes on far too often workplaces throughout the world.
In this instance we have a male office worker working in an environment that is primarily populated by females and who appears to have been the victim of workplace harassment. More often than not, we see cases where women, who are working in a predominantly male environment, are the subject of unwelcome comments and unwelcome touching. Regardless, this type of conduct is unacceptable in the workplace. While I agree that it does not take a law degree to determine that a “bite on the bum” is inappropriate, this article highlights a problem that is more significant. That is, instances where harmless banter escalates to the point of unwelcome touching and unwelcome comments or where workplace banter becomes a problem once a member of the opposite sex is introduced into the workgroup. It doesn’t matter what gender populates the workplace, sexualized comments and touching are unacceptable. The days when upper management could justify inappropriate workplace conduct by saying things like “that’s just the guys on the loading dock”, are long gone. That does not mean that people cannot have fun in the workplace. It does mean that your employees should keep their ‘locker room’ conduct out of the workplace. If you wouldn’t say or do it to your grandmother (I’m assuming your grandmother is not a former Marine drill sergeant), then you shouldn’t do it in the workplace.
Instances such as the one above, in Washington, not only expose the employer to liability but can result in individual liability on the part of the manager.
Don’t assume that because your company did a sexual harassment or diversity awareness program five years ago, that no further training is needed. Training is one of the components that are necessary to assure that your workforce understands your company’s expectations, not only in terms of their conduct but also to instruct them on how to report inappropriate or offensive behavior.
Are you talking the talk or are you walking the walk? By this I mean do you live what you train. The military has a phrase that goes something like this, “we train like we fight and we fight like we train.” In other words, training and action should go hand-in-hand. This requires all levels of management to embrace a concept of a workplace culture that is free from harassment or discrimination. As long as you have members of management that see training as a box to check off on their to-do list, you will never change the culture of the workplace and you will continually expose your company to unneeded and unnecessary litigation.
Till next week,