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I am a M.A. in industrial/organizational psychology. Most of my experience has been in human resources and change management. My passion lies in employee assessment, organizational development and employee opinions. Website: www.IanMondrow.com LinkedIn Profile: http://linkd.in/drBYoC

Monday, October 25, 2010

There's a Policy for That: Sexual Harassment

Source: Hertzog, J.L., Wright, D., & Beat, D. (2008). There's a policy for that: a comparison of the organizational culture of workplaces reporting incidents of sexual harassment. Behavir and Social Issues, 17, 169-181.

Summary and Commentary by: Ian B. Mondrow, M.A.

Unfortunately, recent research by Hertzog, Write and Beat (2008) reveals that policy alone is not enough to  remove sexual harassment from the workplace. Their study utilized data from 303 companies included in the 2002 National Organizational Survey. All of these companies had policies related to sexual harassment. Out of this sample, 29% of the companies have had a formal complaint filed against them for sexual harassment. These companies were found to experience patterns of negative workplace behavior compared to organizations that did not have a formal complaint. They were also more likely to have occurrences of sexual harassment.

Most the organizations in the study were found to offer training to managers and employees. However, organizations that had claims against them were more likely to offer classes on sexual harassment, workplace violence, conflict resolution, and overcoming negative behaviors.

Since policies alone are not enough to prevent sexual harassment, the researchers suggest implementing behavioral interventions that aim to increase reporting behaviors and reduce sexual harassment behaviors. Merely implementing a policy does not change the organizational behavior, it only protects the company from liability.

A policy alone is not sufficient in preventing sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace. The policy sets the foundation and then it is up to managers to communicate and support its initiative. To create a culture that reduces the chance of sexual harassment behaviors, the organization should continually offer training on the topic as well as communicate [on a regular basis] that any type of negative workplace behavior is not accepted in the company. 

As HR professionals, we should ensure that the message of the policy is clear and that all accusations of sexual harassment should be investigated. Ignoring any accusations put the organization at risk for a legal complaint. Sexual harassment should not be ignored by any individual and all complaints or concerns should be taken seriously, regardless of the source. 

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