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Should Harassment Training Be an Ongoing Process?

Harassment Training

Sexual harassment is not a topic that Human Resource professionals enjoy presenting due to the sensitivity involved with the subject and what construe as possible "gray" areas as to what can be regarded as harassment.

These make it confusing for witnesses of possible occurrences to discern if an incident is a reportable sexual violation under the guidelines. And unfortunately, there is an excellent likelihood for someone to witness an encounter for which they won't know how to respond in almost any industry.

Thus, making these presentations is crucial for every company and it is even more vital that the Human Resource Departments become educated, including training on important legislation like the Adult Survivors Act. In that way, they can provide thorough, concise training, so there are no questions for any employee about how to respond to any potential scenario.

Is harassment training only needed once a year?

Too often, not only in industries but in the world, sexual harassment is viewed as having layers with many gray areas where you just don't know for sure if it meets the terms of the laws.

It's curious who decided that because it's relatively cut and dry. Either you're derogatory with someone who prefers that you not be, or you're not. Simple.

If you are, you're going against policy and should answer for that. And if you witness someone doing that, you have an obligation to report the occurrence whether the victim chooses to or not.

Human Resources are required to present anti harassment training in our industries today, and employees must sign compliance that they took the training.

Does that mean these are effective presentations?

Probably not all of them. Likely the behavior is still relatively rampant industry-wide, with witnesses and victims unsure about reporting due to potential repercussions. But how can you make it better? What can employers do to improve their efforts? Let's see.

  • Stop the same old, modernize and remain current

When employees know what to expect, they don't take it seriously or pay much attention to what's being presented. Honestly, the people providing the same presentation over and over aren't genuinely into it either, making it dull and weak.

The material needs to be updated each year, kept modern and fresh. Each time there's a change, bring everyone together to note the update and show the protocol's relevance.

A lecture is not relatable but customizing interactive material integrating scenarios that indeed take place on worksites will strike individuals personally. With these, you can use examples of joking in the workplace, hugs, dating at work, alcohol with after-hour events, and also touch on legal consequences for the company.

  • Workplace culture

As a company leader, it's up to you to recognize the culture allowed in the workplace and change it if it's become out of hand.

There are Codes of Conduct with most businesses that employees must abide by, or there are repercussions, whether the standard three strikes your out or another method of consequences. Learn how to improve your office culture and modernize your company’s training at

First, you have to assess if there is cursing in the building, whether there is an atmosphere where inappropriate comments are tolerated, if individuals have alcohol on company time, and on.

Any of these behaviors have the potential to create a hostile work environment. These are the conditions that spark sexual harassment. It can range from subtle instances of pestering a coworker incessantly or not speaking to them at all.

Perhaps someone enjoys teasing or mocking others. Or more extreme cases where individuals feel it's okay to get in someone's personal space, maybe physically touch them, make a threat, or act violently towards someone.

Some don't warrant three strikes you're out, but that's generally explained in detail with the Code of Conduct. Specific behavior is automatic termination.

Harassment Training
  • Part of the daily program

Sexual harassment awareness shouldn't be a one-time compliance training each year. That should be a daily occurrence. There should be tools easily accessible for everyone like blog / website links, brochures, educational webinars, and videos so individuals can recognize signs to watch for to aid someone dealing with improper behavior. Posters should flank the message boards against sexual harassment.

Everyone should receive guidelines on the policies, reporting incidents and be educated on the investigative process with information on repercussions for those in non-compliance.

As a leader in a company, establish an "open-door policy" where anyone can speak anonymously, ask questions, share personal experiences, or just gain insight for themselves.

You can establish a third-party contact, develop a hot-line for this purpose, designate human resource personnel, or set up a specific email address, anything where individuals feel comfortable, safe, and secure in addressing their particular concerns. Go here for guidance on sexual harassment prevention.

Final Thought

Sexual harassment shouldn't be treated as a yearly workplace compliance activity. Harassment of any kind is much more than that, and it needs much more attention than that.

Everyone needs to be self-aware daily to ensure we treat each person we run into with civility and respect at work, at home, on the street. If the workplace can remind us to do that with posters, brochures, emails, videos, or regular interactive presentations that are up-to-date and relatable, let's do it.

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