EEOC Recommends Respectful Workplace Training

EEOC Recommends Respectful Workplace Training

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 everyone who will now begin teaching it.

With all my years of classroom experience, I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share. 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.

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.

By R. Makana Risser Chai

Makana Risser Chai is a trainer, HR consultant and former Silicon Valley attorney who specializes in teaching courses on creating respectful workplaces by preventing harassment, bullying, disrespect, and unconscious bias.