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At the beginning of a training program on Anti-Sexual Harassment, the trainer enthusiastically asked us ‘What do you expect from this session?’

Our group, noisy till then, miraculously turned silent in response. Each one expecting the other to answer. Finally, a senior employee salvaged the situation by providing a politically correct answer and appeasing the trainer. Amidst thunderous applause for the colleague’s rescue, what went unheard were gibes from the back-benchers – ‘We expect an hour of sleep,’ ‘A repeat of the earlier session,’ ‘We expect our time to get wasted,’ and ‘Men harassing women.’

Chuckling at their wit, I agreed wholeheartedly.

It is indeed time that organizations rethink their approach towards Anti-Sexual Harassment Training.

Here are 5 ways to enhance a company’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Training:

  1. Clarify grey areas

Anti-Sexual Harassment Training makes use of extreme examples of harassment while interacting with participants. Most employees are already aware that such extreme situations constitute sexual harassment. In addition to dwelling on the obvious examples, training must also clarify blurry situations. For instance, can one ask a colleague of the opposite gender about their interest in a late-night cab-sharing arrangement or would that cross a line?

The rapidly evolving rules of social engagement make the navigation of grey areas, dicey. Anti-Sexual Harassment training needs to provide clarity on the ‘grey areas’.

  1. Reduce stereotypes and broaden the content

Studies are indicating that far from reducing harassment, Anti-Sexual Harassment Training plays a role in perpetuating stereotypes in the workplace when training materials use examples of men in power harassing female victims.

Given that sexual harassment occurs within the same gender and the ‘other’ genders as well (although to a lesser degree), training content should include various scenarios of harassment, so all employees relate to it and understand what it entails.

  1. Share tips that victims can practically use

Training programs can cover practical tips that victims can use to counter uncomfortable situations.

For instance, when a harasser invites an employee to join him in a personal weekend getaway, the victim can directly ask ‘Why do you think it is appropriate for me to join you for your personal weekend getaway?’ This way, the victim provides feedback to the harasser on the behavior.

  1. Train Bystanders

Employees who are neither victims nor harassers but happen to witness harassment genuinely do not know how to react and respond to the situation. Anti-Sexual harassment training needs to:

  • Guide such bystanders on the process of filing a complaint as a third party, and make them aware of how their complaint tethers them to the case.
  • Suggest as to how bystanders can individually or in a group, speak-up for the victim (for instance, telling the harasser ‘This kind of behavior isn’t cool with us. Let’s show some respect.’). Or, provide tips for bystanders to circle back to the harasser at a later time with open-ended, thought-provoking questions (for instance, ‘Were you aware of how you sounded in front of others?’).

 

  1. Separate Session for Managers

Managers need to be sensitized about dealing with complaints of sexual harassment as otherwise, they could unwittingly play a role in enabling a culture of silence in the organization.

Technology is also enabling the enhancement of such training. SaaS-based companies like Ethena provide modern, customized, bite-sized, iterative and analytics-backed Anti-sexual harassment training to employees in monthly ‘nudges’.

Enhancing Anti-sexual harassment training not only makes the next session more bearable but also provides organizations with a powerful tool to influence its culture.

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