Editor’s Note: One of our regular contributors, Donna Rogers, recently participated as an attendee and speaker on the 2018 HR Conference Cruise. What’s an HR Cruise you may ask? According to the website, it combines “a robust Human Resource conference with an exciting cruise to tropical islands and gorgeous getaways….It is everything that a land-based conference offers – except that it moves!” The inaugural cruise set sail in January 2017 and based on popularity and demand returned with two sailings in February 2018. Donna wanted to share some of her observations and takeaways with the Women of HR readers; below is her second post.
The morning after a day in Jamaica started off with a bang in Julie Pugh’s session covering harassment in the headlines, most recently referenced with the hashtags #MeToo and #TimesUp. Her session was titled “Have Your Life Jacket Handy: The HR Professional’s Role in Addressing Pre-Lawsuit Procedures.” Whew! That’s a mouthful! However, being prepared is a big deal and deserves our attention, understanding, and consideration to avoid a mouthful of curse words (quietly of course) when you get handed your first EEOC complaint or lawsuit. Believe me, they are not fun to deal with!
I have personally had my share of harassment (especially sexual) complaints during my tenure in HR. So far this year, I have delivered a couple of programs as well as conducted a couple of investigation and it’s only February! The stories I could tell would make you wonder what type of work is actually being done in the workplace. Matter of fact, I shared one of them in the session that helped Julie make her point about other types of complaints you can get besides harassment. The one I shared was constructive discharge and sexual harassment.
What I found new and interesting in this session is to look at documentation related to the topic and remove things like the word “confidential.” For example: Don’t tell employees in person or in harassment policies that their conversation or complaint will remain confidential. Why? Because it won’t! You can’t keep it confidential. Again, why? Because you may have to conduct interviews, talk to management, attorneys, etc.
So, what can you say or write instead on using the word confidential?
- Say we will be “discreet”, or
- We will only share on a “need to know basis”
In addition, Julie mentioned an example of a time she was conducting training when someone in the room asked for a definition of an inappropriate behavior. She redirected the question to make a point about how managers need to be constantly vigilant about what is discussed in the workplace while another manager got up and demonstrated the inappropriate behavior in front of the whole group. She politely took the person to the side to have a private conversation about how inappropriate her demonstration was and how that type of reaction and attitude is exactly what they are trying to avoid in the workplace. I can’t tell you how many times employees and managers have taken pot shots at some of the main points of a harassment awareness training I was conducting. What a great lesson on how to deal with those outbursts.