An Open Letter to Managers and Supervisors

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[Originally published on Medium]

Dear Managers and Supervisors,

As you know, the recent media attention on sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace draws attention to one of the biggest problems companies are facing today. As a result, you might be reflecting on your own experiences as a leader and thinking about how you can ensure a safer work environment for your employees.

While you may think that your company’s HR department and upper management are primarily responsible for handling reports of sexual misconduct, do not feel that your role as a manager is merely to pass along claims and complaints. Managers are often in the most effective position to model and uphold your company’s values and promote a positive and respectful workplace culture. You are uniquely positioned to make some of the most impactful actions to address workplace harassment.

In this letter, we outline several simple, yet critical, steps that you can take to encourage a positive workplace and protect yourself and your team from becoming the next media headline.

Promote a Respectful Environment
Your role as a manager means that you have the opportunity to — and should — model good behavior. As a role model, you should be able to recognize the kinds of actions and comments that may threaten the comfort and safety of your team. The following are things that can lead to a negative environment, and possibly violate your company’s conduct policy. Proactive engagement on these things can help reduce the likelihood of more serious problems.

· Comments/dialogue of sexual nature
· Nicknames
· Lewd jokes — shared verbally or electronically
· Comments on appearance
· Asking about personal matters
· Inappropriate touching or invasion of personal space
· Displaying/distributing inappropriate content
· Engaging in these behaviors when representing the company outside of the work place, such as at conventions, dinner meetings and events.

It is helpful to have regular, open discussions with your staff to articulate norms and standards for behavior within your team and encourage everyone to uphold those values. Conversations that promote open discussion are a simple and proactive way to prevent or address things before they escalate.

Be Engaged
Effective managers are engaged with their team. Regular interaction can help mitigate inappropriate behaviors before problems escalate and build the trusting relationships that empower staff to bring problems to your attention. Victims often report instances to their supervisors rather than directly to HR. Best practice organizations empower managers and supervisors to respond quickly to incidents on their team, but it requires that managers understand how to respond effectively to survivors, as well as staff members who have behaved inappropriately. Work with your HR team to communicate the incident effectively, respectfully, and objectively through your company’s channels.

Don’t be a Complicit Bystander
Leaders have an obligation to address inappropriate conduct when it is witnessed or reported. Ignoring the problem or assuming it was a one-time incident or misinterpreted comment can embolden or encourage the employee who is behaving inappropriately. Failing to address “lower level” problematic behavior can create a slippery slope and ultimately result in escalating harassment and misconduct.

Know your Company Policy
Check with your HR team so that you know and are familiar with your organization’s policy on sexual harassment and misconduct. Communicating regularly with your HR team about how policies are working for your team helps to strengthen the organizational culture and trust, but also ensures that your team’s voice is heard during HR policy review and development. With this knowledge, you’ll be prepared to take the right steps in the event of an incident.

Stopping sexual harassment will require involvement and support from all levels of an organization. You can read our other letters to CEOs and CHROs here.

As a supervisor, you are the front line in building a respectful and safe workplace. Work with your team to construct a positive culture that promotes respect and equality and empowers individuals to stop behaviors that are uncomfortable or threatening.

Sincerely,

Kristen Houser, MPA
 Chief Public Affairs Officer
 Raliance
 khouser@raliance.org

Jeff Perkins
 CEO
 Huntbridge
 jeff.perkins@huntbridge.com

Jackie Kindall
 CEO
 Kindall Evolve
 jackie@kindallevolve.com

RALIANCE, Huntbridge, and Kindall Evolve have teamed up to provide training, tools and consulting to help companies working to strengthen their sexual harassment policies and procedures.

An Open Letter to CHROs and HR Executives

An Open Letter to CHROs and HR Executives

We imagine you are aware of the recent media attention on sexual harassment. As an HR executive, you may have wondered about HR’s role in responding to allegations of sexual harassment; you may have empathized with the HR department knowing what it is like when someone makes a complaint of harassment against top talent within an organization; or you may have paused to reflect upon similar situations within your own organization. “What if? Did we do enough? Could we have handled that better? Are we liable in any way?” These are all plausible reactions.

An Open Letter to CEOs and Boards of Directors

An Open Letter to CEOs and Boards of Directors

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month — and the time of year many companies work on their annual reviews and employee engagement surveys. We wanted to provide you with information, best practices and a few additional survey questions to consider to foster a harassment-free workplace and guard your company’s reputation from becoming the next headline.

Leaders EVOLVE Vol. 3

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As we close out the year, it is a good time to reflect on the goals we set for 2017, progress made, and challenges overcome.  It is also a good time to reflect on things that may have held us back from reaching our goals.  In the last Leaders Evolve blog, we talked about lack of self-awareness as the #1 thing that holds leaders back.  Here is another item on the Ten Things That Hold Leaders Back: having poor conflict management skills.

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Conflict Management

If you are in any type of leadership role, the ability to manage conflict is critical. Conflict is inevitable as it is a natural component of team development and growth. Here are a few things to keep in mind as a leader:

  • Conflict is not always a bad thing.
  • Conflict is often avoided.
  • When avoided, conflict can fester and become harmful to the individuals involved in the conflict as well as other team members.
  • Providing your team with skills to manage conflict is a powerful way to improve team dynamics.

What can you do when there is conflict on your team?

Encourage your team members to:

  • Honor differences in individual conflict styles
  • Have open conversations directly with the parties involved
  • Share specific behaviors (what was actually said or done) as opposed to the way those behaviors were interpreted and labeled
  • State the impact of the behaviors
  • Actively listen (be present, listen for understanding, paraphrase, summarize)
  • Find out what needs are not being met so that the expectations of all parties are understood
  • Assume that all parties have good intentions
  • Talk about resolution in a collaborative way.  Ask questions such as:
    • “What do we both want?”
    • “How can we resolve this in a way that respects our individual needs?”
  • Be willing to compromise
  • Be mindful of their own verbal and non-verbal communication
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By engaging in this type of dialogue, individuals often discover that they have made invalid assumptions, typically in the absence of information.  Assumptions are tricky and often result in conclusions that do not serve either party well (they are typically not positive).  If both parties are open and willing to do the work to resolve the conflict, the negative assumptions will be clarified and positive solutions will be achieved. Communication, not avoidance, is the key!

On a related note, I frequently ask leaders what their struggles are regarding giving feedback.  The responses indicate that the lack of feedback stems from a desire to avoid a negative reaction, a flat-out denial, uncomfortable tension, or hurt feelings.  ATTENTION: This is a form of conflict avoidance that can prevent your direct reports from performing at their highest level. Follow the tips above and engage in open dialogue with your direct reports.  

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And yes, you guessed it; FEEDBACK (failure to give feedback, recognition and praise) is on the Ten Things That Hold Leaders Back list as well.  Stay tuned.

Until next time,

Jackie Kindall, CEO

10 Things That Hold Leaders Back Vol. 2

10 Things That Hold Leaders Back Vol. 2

From years of working with leaders at every level, studying leadership and conducting research, we have identified key factors that keep leaders from being their best and getting the best from their people.  We will begin sharing our list of 10 things that hold leaders back. This list is not all inclusive but, in our experience, these are the most common.

Whether you are an emerging, experienced or seasoned leaders, focusing on these 10 things will help you create more engaging work environments and meet your strategic goals.  This all ties back to the bottom line results of your organization, so please keep reading. 

Without further ado, here is #1 on the list of 10 Things that Hold Leaders Back.