Six states have mandated that private businesses conduct training to prevent sexual harassment. Businesses in those states have a burden of compliance. However, all businesses have reason to consider sexual harassment prevention training with or without a state mandate.
Sexual harassment in the workplace imposes many costs and consequences for the business. Consider the Employee Perspective.
Fundamentally, sexual harassment destroys trust. Trust between the victim and the perpetrator, trust between the victim and management, and trust between other employees and the organization. This is obviously true when harassment is unreported, or reported and uncorrected. But, even if harassment is investigated and corrective action is taken, working relationships and communications suffer. The business would be much better off if the harassment never occurred – if it were prevented.
Even if managers try to maintain privacy, employees are generally aware of and curious about the reported harassment and the investigation. When managers and employees are focused on that, they are not focused on the business’s customers, operations, or bottom line. Conversation around the water cooler is likely about rumors. And, this impacts employee morale and productivity.
A 2017 NIH study identified many consequences borne by victims. These include:
Victims lose affective commitment to the organization and start looking for alternative employment. This study reports a 49% increase in employment change within two years by women who suffer sexual harassment on the job. This leads to financial loss when victims take less favorable jobs as the price of escaping a hostile workplace.
Harassment makes it difficult to form mentoring relationships, thus harming career development. In essence, the business damages its own human capital.
There is no upside to ignoring the ills produced by sexual harassment in the workplace. On the contrary, taking affirmative steps to build trust, promote human potential, and improve business focus is the only way to survive in a competitive market. Effective, engaging, and interactive training for the prevention of sexual harassment is a valuable tool to that end.