CULTIVATING A SAFER WORKPLACE

Empowering bystanders through a team-based approach

Client: Medium Sized Technology Supply Organization

Challenge: Despite significant investments into sexual harassment training year over year, senior leaders struggled to reduce regular incidents of harassment and associated costs including psychological harm, attrition, and absenteeism.

Outcome: Employees took the difficulty out of being a bystander by developing a proactive team approach to cultivating a harassment free culture. Teams also developed phrases that made reporting easier for those who have never witnessed harassment before..

Discovery: Ongoing dialogue around the results of the interview with senior leaders and customized survey took the form of Action Learning Teams. In addition to  questions focusing on sexual harassment, this survey also investigated influences on an employee's sense of well-being (the scale ranged from 1 -Strongly Disagree to 5-Strongly Agree).

  • I am not given enough time to do what others expect of me.

  • I lack the opportunity to develop my special abilities on the job. 

  • I do not believe my job is meaningful.

  • I do not receive enough help and resources to get the job done. 

  • I find that my work environment is unpleasant.

  • My colleagues are able to express their values and their beliefs calmly to me.

  • My colleagues are able to express their point of view without being disrespectful.

Dialogue: Here is how Action Learning Teams worked together to bring about a measurable difference in feeling safe and respected at work:

  1. I assembled a group of leaders into three Action Learning (AL) teams (Civility, Sexual Harassment, and Work-life balance) comprised of stakeholders that would be most impacted by each area. Together, the team reached out to others in the organization to learn more about what else they should consider as they develop solutions.

  2. Teams then met for approximately 2 hours to develop a succinct mission statement describing their specific intent. These were  shared with the entire organization.

  3. Teams then brainstormed and develop a project proposal that included 1-2 SMART goals and an action plan that spelled out the specific responsibilities for team members, due dates, and methods for measuring success.

  4. Teams then began implementing their plans and checking in regularly with myself as well as senior leaders (and each other) to ensure that the project is running smoothly. They kept leadership informed and were not be reticent to make changes as they moved forward.

  5. Once each project concluded, the team outlined key lessons learned about facilitating the process itself. Sometimes a project will reach a logical conclusion and will no longer need further exploration. When this was the case, the team adjourned and was replaced by a team that focused on improving a different dimension of organizational culture, which falls into one of the following categories: trust, respect, and being valued.

Epiphany: For this organization, the team-based approach that Action Learning provides produced an impact that was felt deeper and wider than the harassment training employees received in the past. This was because it put teams in the driver's seat for creating conditions for a harassment free culture that worked specifically for them. The highly customized and self-directed nature of this work led to greater buy in and consistency. in anti-harassment behaviors.

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