Sheakley Updates

“New” Rules for the Workplace in the Age of #MeToo

Ella Baker
Rules for the Workplace
Reading time 4 Mins
Published on Jan 17

#MeToo is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. It’s been almost 18 months since the movement began in earnest and it has expanded into every corner of society. In the workplace, the #MeToo movement has led to a greater focus on preventing harassment, creating a more equitable workplace, and ensuring that employees and managers treat one another with respect. While some of the “new” rules for the workplace in the age of #MeToo are common sense, it is now more important than ever to pay special attention to ensuring that your team members have the training they need to prevent sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

Treat colleagues equally

It should be a no-brainer to treat all of your colleagues equally regardless of their gender. However, women report being slighted in the workplace at rates far greater than their male counterparts, including being addressed in an unprofessional manner and having their opinions questioned in the area of expertise. Additionally, though men and women enter the workforce in approximately equal numbers, women fall behind in promotions from entry-level management and beyond.

It’s common knowledge that professional interactions and opportunities for advancement often arise from social interactions. If most of your company’s post-work interactions take place on the golf course or over drinks, you shoulder consider opportunities for interaction that are more comfortable for a broader range of employees, including breakfast or lunch. This allows for more employees, including those with children and after work commitments, to engage in the types of social interactions with management that can often lead to promotions.

Keep compliments in good taste

With many people worrying over what they can and can’t say in the #MeToo era, keeping compliments in good taste is critical. While many compliments are perfectly acceptable, there is a fine line between what’s ok and what’s not. If you’re worried that the compliment you’re about to give will be taken out of context or might cross a line, just hold your tongue.

Still worried? Just keep all compliments focused on work. Praising a colleague for their hard work on a project or landing a new client is always acceptable.

Hands to yourself

In general, placing your hands on a colleague should just be avoided. What might be an innocent hand on the shoulder to you may be seen as an act of harassment by the recipient. If a coworker recently experienced a loss or received bad news, you may be inclined to console them with a hug or a pat on the back. Compassion is understandable, but if you’re unsure how your actions will be interpreted just remember to ask for permission before invading someone’s personal space. Asking for consent isn’t awkward, but if you’re still unsure you can just stick with words of sympathy. With very few exceptions, maintaining a hands-off policy is your best bet.

Culture and training are key

Offering training to your staff and management is important for ensuring that all of your employees understand the warning signs of sexual harassment and unequal treatment in the workplace. Training helps your employees understand that they each have an obligation to be on the lookout for behavior that might cross the line and step in to stop it. In addition to extensive training, your company should adopt a culture that discourages behavior that might rise to the level of sexual harassment and gender inequity.

Get your free consultation with a Sheakley HR representative today and find out how we can help you develop policies and procedures to help you evaluate whether your current plan is effective at actively preventing sexual harassment and unequal treatment. Stay up-to-date on all things Sheakley by subscribing to our blog and following us on social media. Join in the discussion by commenting below.

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