EEOC Finally Recommends Respectful Workplace Training
By Makana Risser Chai
The EEOC, the federal agency responsible for preventing sexual harassment, recently recommended that corporate training programs should include a discussion of workplace values like respect, and teach bystanders how to intervene when they see it.
As the attorney who developed a harassment prevention training called “Respectful Workplace” more than 30 years ago, and taught it more than 1,000 times to managers and employees in 38 states, I welcome the EEOC and all the lawyers who will now begin teaching it.
With all my years of classroom experience, I’ve learned a few things it may take them a while to catch on to. One is that it is very challenging to talk about values, because everyone’s values are different. After all, harassers have values, too—they just aren’t the same as most people’s. Even if we all agree that we value respect, different people define respect differently.
That’s why lecturing about values isn’t recommended. Instead, let the participants reflect on and talk about their own values.
Teaching bystanders to intervene is another challenging area. Lecturing about it doesn’t do much good once they get back to work. Instead, they need to build their intervention skills.
These two “new” areas recommended by the EEOC require a “new” type of harassment prevention training. No longer can trainers simply lecture. They need to facilitate learning by asking questions, facilitating exercises, and getting participants to think.
When most lawyers ask questions in a classroom, they sound like they are cross-examining witnesses. But that doesn’t help people gain any insights into their own behavior, which is what they need in order to change.
I am grateful that the EEOC has acknowledged the efficacy of my approach, not only because it validates my decision to teach this way 30 years ago, but also because the method will now become widespread and help prevent harassment.
Organizations looking for an experienced “Respectful Workplace” lawyer-trainer can give me a call.