The tsunami of sexual harassment claims since media mogul Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace has prompted many businesses to examine the ways in which they deal with workplace misconduct.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. And while many organizations provide sexual harassment training and have policies on the books to deal with reported cases, victims of the unwanted advances have been slow to come forward until now. As accusations from across the workplace emerge—including government, entertainment, and industry—organizations are taking action to prevent more harassment from occurring.
Vox Media has hired an outside firm to review its sexual harassment reporting procedures. Uber has added staff to deal with reports of misconduct. House Speaker Paul Ryan has called for House members to provide sexual-harassment training for their staff.
Even companies that so far have not experienced incidents have made moves. Dell, Rockwell, and Facebook are encouraging employees to attend training sessions meant to identify biases that can lead to sexual harassment. Boardroom directors—who typically do not deal with sexual harassment unless an incident requires their input—are taking proactive measures. A former CEO for Reuters, who sits on several boards, says organizations should not wait for “grotesque” examples of sexual harassment before checking their own corporate culture.
However, worries about overkill are emerging. Some men have become intimidated enough to avoid conversations with female co-workers, which could keep these women from learning about important job-related opportunities.
Nevertheless, the systemic culture that has excused egregious behavior seems to be under the microscope, and that’s good news for all involved.
- Aside from firing sexual harassers, what can organizations do to promote a workplace free of such behavior?
- Should coworkers who witness a colleague being harassed proactively report the situation to authorities?
- What can be done to eliminate the tacit tolerance of sexual misconduct?
- Why do companies fire problematic workers or managers almost instantly after allegations surface instead of waiting to exercise due process under the law which means that an accused is innocent until proven guilty?
From the Wall Street Journal
Organizations have long encouraged their employees to participate in food drives and home-building activities. But there’s growing interest among corporations for a new type of volunteerism that involves workers donating their professional expertise while on the company dime. It’s called pro bono service, and it differs from traditional volunteering, which is usually performing tasks for which there would not be a charge anyway.
What’s in it for the companies? For one, pro bono initiatives help attract and retain employees looking for a way to add meaning to their lives and careers. This is especially true of millennials, who are particularly interested in benefitting causes with their skills or expertise. Companies may also deduct certain expenses associated with their employees’ pro bono efforts, although the time itself is not deductible. Large organizations can likewise funnel their workers toward causes they support. Prudential Financial, for example, allows teams of employees to work on 10-week consulting projects for nonprofits near its New Jersey headquarters. Wells Fargo workers may choose to help impoverished communities obtain microfinancing.
According to CECP, a consulting firm that helps organizations do good, more and more companies are doing just that. CECP’s data shows that last year, organizations’ employees logged more than a million hours of pro bono work, up from less than half a million hours in 2013. Carmen Perez, CECP’s director of data insights, explains that people are no longer satisfied by painting a fence. “They want to use their skills […] to solve a societal challenge,” she says.
- What additional motivations might a large organization have for allowing its employees to perform pro bono work?
- Other than enjoying the satisfaction that comes from doing good, how else might a volunteer be positively affected by performing pro bono rather than traditional volunteer work?
- Why would smaller businesses with fewer resources also engage in pro bono activities?
From the Wall Street Journal
A male software engineer at Google recently wrote a 10-page memo in which he argued that women’s biological makeup causes them to be inherently less suitable for jobs in technology. In his rationale, James Damore named specific characteristics that supposedly make women ineffective tech workers. He wrote that women are drawn toward “feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas” and that these differences explain why women prefer jobs with a more artistic or social bent. He also wrote that women are more neurotic than men, which causes them to experience higher anxiety and lower stress tolerance, which in turn leads to their being underrepresented in high-stress jobs such as those in technology.
The document circulated around the company before making its way into the world, and the ensuing uproar led to Damore being fired.
The incident has ignited a debate about free speech in the workplace, specifically, what happens when an employee expresses an idea offensive in an organization’s corporate culture. In a written response to Googlers about Damore’s dismissal, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the diatribe violated “our code of conduct and cross[ed] the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” Pichai’s response also noted that the company’s code of conduct requires employees to do “their utmost to create a workplace culture… free of harassment, intimidation, bias, and unlawful discrimination.”
Damore has since complained about his ouster to federal labor officials, saying Google is trying to silence him. However, attorneys knowledgeable about labor law say companies can legally prohibit speech and behavior that either harasses or discriminates against other staff. Furthermore, an organization may fire employees who violate the employer’s values.
Does doing so squelch free speech or provide a safe work environment?
- Does Google’s firing of James Damore go against its own platform of encouraging its employees to speak their minds?
- What impact might Google’s action have on other employees at the company?
- Do you think employees should have free rein to say anything in the workplace environment?