Ineffective HR Makes Sexual Harassment Thrive. Here’s How to Fix it.

Is your HR department effective at stopping sexual harassment, or are they like many of the companies described by The New York Times, “ineffective”? There are many reasons why HR can’t put a stop to all discrimination and harassment (of all kinds, not just sexual harassment), but we can change that. Here are the problems and solutions.

Problem: “HR’s client is the company, which means that HR is supposed to protect the company’s interests.”

This quote comes from Cynthia Calvert, a discrimination lawyer and senior adviser to the Center for WorkLife Law in San Francisco, in an email to the New York Times.  Calvert is right that this can be a problem. This is how you end up with low-level people (usually female) getting ignored or offered small settlements to go away, in order to protect a senior level superstar (usually male).

Solution: Change the Company’s Interest

To keep reading, click here:  Ineffective HR Makes Sexual Harassment Thrive. Here’s How to Fix it.

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6 thoughts on “Ineffective HR Makes Sexual Harassment Thrive. Here’s How to Fix it.

  1. Harassment, racism, prejudice are never going away. You cannot legislate, or add to an employee manual, ignorance, stupidity and lack of common sense.

    It is just hopeful rhetoric to appease people’s need to believe it is possible.

    But, Hope Springs Eternal

    1. Of course it won’t. It’s the human condition. People are flawed and choose to do stupid things.

      What you can do is to make sure there are meaningful consequences for doing stupid things.

    2. Murder will never go away, either, but we still have laws against it and (try to) hold people accountable when they violate those laws, and even take some steps to prevent it.

      And yes, that was an intentionally extreme comparison. That a problem is difficult to solve doen’t get us off the hook if we don’t even try.

      You’re right, we can’t make sexual harassment and other bad behavior go away, but we can make the perpetrators “go away” from our companies. We can set clear expectations, and follow through with consequences when they aren’t followed – just like any other workplace issue. We can listed to people when they tell us they’re being targeted, and recognize that a) they’re not the problem (even if having to act on their complaints makes our job hard or uncomfortable) and b) allowing them and others to be abused has real, negative consequences for our bottom line.

    3. You cannot force people to change their minds. But consequences can change people’s behavior.

      I don’t care if you’re the Grand Dragon of your local Klaven, a member of ISIS, and believe all women in your workplace should be at home, barefoot and pregnant. I care how you speak and how you act. And as your boss, I can make certain that you behave properly or find yourself on your ass, out the door.

  2. HR should reply directly to the board, and any accusations should be independently audited and summarized in the annual report. Still no guarantees, but checks-and-balances and sunshine should help.

  3. Saying “Men and women have different career interests” is no more “fine” than saying that “all differences are due to discrimination.” Both are oversimplifications of an incredibly complex reality. To the extent that a gender-based difference in career interests may exist, no one can — credibly — say that is not, at least partly, the result of pre-existing discrimination. As noted in the article, a lot of people do hate HR. As a result, the pay in HR tends to be lower than comparable employees are paid in other functions. This situation tend to self-select-out some male candidates who are aware of the gender-based pay differential. Socialization — which includes so-called unconscious factors like systemic discrimination and male privilege — plays a huge role in establishing ones career interests. So, no, not all differences are dues to discrimination, but it’s crazy to totally disregard discrimination as a factor in both career interests and all other gender-based differences. I do agree that — to the extent possible — HR needs to answer to the highest level in the organization, needs to be as independent as possible (including, if practicable, using outside investigators in discrimination cases) and needs to be able to effectively articulate the business case for diversity and non-discrimination.

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