February 15, 2019

Staying Out of Trouble in the #MeToo World

by Angelique Paul Newcomb, Littler Mendelson, P.C.

The #MeToo rallying cry has led many victims of inappropriate workplace conduct to find their voices and to protest the mistreatment of women in every industry. Responsible employers have heard that cry, but often don’t know how to respond.

Here are three things you should do to promote a healthy workplace culture so you can retain talented employees and stay out of the headlines:

1. Revisit and refresh your policies. Do you have a policy prohibiting harassment? If not, get one. If you do have a policy, how effective is it? Does it provide examples of the behavior that will not be tolerated so employees know where you draw the line? Does it provide multiple ways for employees to report concerns, so they can bypass an offending supervisor/manager? Does it provide an overview of the investigative procedure and detail the range of disciplinary responses, up to and including termination? Does it promise no retaliation for good faith complaints?

2. Empower Your employees. Inappropriate workplace behavior impacts everyone. Encourage employees to report concerns, even if conduct is not directed at them personally, and to intervene whenever a situation feels uncomfortable. Bystander intervention can be as simple as interrupting two employees in a heated discussion and inviting one to grab coffee, or following up privately with an employee who seems visibly upset to offer support.

3. Promote civility. Don’t just focus on ferreting out bad behavior, but praise and reward your employees for doing things that make the workplace one where people enjoy coming to work. Adopt a civility code. Encourage employees to greet each other with “good morning” or “good evening.” Remind them that “please” and “thank you” go a long way. Take time to compliment someone for a job well done. When someone is speaking to you, put your phone down. Make eye contact and listen. These small courtesies make others feel valued and respected.

Angelique Paul Newcomb