A 2018 Society of Human Resource Management article surveyed HR professionals and found that 94% stated their companies have a sexual harassment policy, but 57% believe that unreported sexual harassment incidents occur in their organization Additionally, 76% of non-manager employees surveyed experienced sexual harassment within the last year and did not report it.
Let me get this straight, the company has a policy, but employees don’t report the bad behavior? YES! You may be scratching your head and thinking, that makes no sense …or does it? This topic is timely as organizations are gearing up for holiday parties, and “social” behavior can be more relaxed than normal.
Bad behavior such as harassment, sexual harassment, bullying, etc. is not about a policy, it is about what is allowed in the culture of the organization. When an issue arises, how does the organization respond? As an employee, I would assume that your response to day-to-day issues will be the same if a situation is more severe, i.e. harassment.
Let’s suppose an employee makes a mistake that costs the company time or money, does the supervisor investigate, or get angry and lose their cool? What if an employee does not meet goals or designated results, does the supervisor coach, or get angry and reprimand? What if an employee acts funny (out of their typical behavior), does the supervisor make an offhanded comment, or ignore the behavior and hope it will change? What if an employee receives lewd comments from a “highly” thought of manager in the company. The employee knows this person is a producer and doubts that anything will be done, so they don’t say a word and if they do, they may be afraid that there will be repercussions. If these situations occur and the responses are negative, this creates an expected outcome, and the result is I keep my mouth shut.
You are probably saying to yourself, we have managers all over the country, how am I supposed to know how they respond in every situation? Good question?!
The behavior allowed in the organization is ultimately the out picturing of the organization culture. Behavior relates to boundaries and reflects the organization’s cultural consistency. I define culture as the gap between what you “say you do” and “what you really do”. Consistency is defined as conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy, or fairness. If the company has a value that you treat employees with respect and dignity, but the above-mentioned examples occur, that is not walking your talk and reflects a lack of cultural consistency. Incidents of cultural inconsistency may occur more frequently in family businesses. Imagine a relative “acts out” in an inappropriate manner and the behavior is swept under the rug. The message that sends is that policies and practices are only applicable to those that are not family, you get the idea!
Creating cultural consistency sounds like a long-term initiative? You are correct, it is!
What can you do if your holiday party is in two weeks? Remind your managers that this is a social engagement sponsored by the company, and some employees that are new in the work world may not be aware of the level of decorum that applies in this setting. Have creative alternatives available in the event of situations that could become awkward, i.e. use a cash bar or schedule UBER. Managers should monitor behaviors similarly at any type of work function.
I recently had the opportunity to train a group of Generation Z (20+ YO) who were interns at a prestigious law firm in Dallas. I was coaching them how to “get along” with the other, older generations. These were students from top-tier universities, and I was surprised that I had to tell them that the end of summer party was really a work day, minus the suit, plus the shorts. I then defined appropriate apparel (how short are shorts), and how many/if any beers to drink. They were surprised, as they assumed if it was a more casual setting they could act accordingly. I am certain this conversation effectively saved the career of a few summer interns.
To impact long term cultural consistency, continue to reinforce organization values, expectations, and boundaries. Ensure leadership walks the talk and cascade this expectation through the organization. When you hear of managers treating employees in a manner that is inconsistent with your values and sound like the examples above, use it as a coaching opportunity and deal with the behavior immediately. If you are approached with feedback about your behavior; thank the employee, apologize, and don’t let it happen again.
The moment you stop it, is the moment you create cultural consistency.