How to Navigate #MeToo at Work

Toft Group is proud to present this guest post by our friend and colleague Patti Perez of Emtrain.  Patti is an expert in transforming workplace culture, and she has been leading a series of live events partnered with Toft Group on the subject of harrassment in the workplace.

Robin Toft, Patti Perez (Emtrain), and Linda Sierra (Toft Group) at the San Diego presentation to HR leaders

How to Navigate #MeToo at Work
By Patti Perez, Emtrain

I know, I know. It’s the last thing we want to talk about—especially in the workplace. Actually, the truth of the matter is, this sticky subject has opened up a floodgate of productive discussion in the corporate arena and I really do think we’re just getting started!

My combined experience as an attorney, human resource (HR) executive and entrepreneur has equipped me with the expertise to tackle topics such as this that largely impact our communication and decision making in the workplace.

For International Women’s Day, I partnered with Toft Group to give a presentation to San Diego’s HR leaders where we discussed tangible ways to make sense of the #MeToo movement in the workplace. These three key takeaways from our discussion highlight how companies can avoid enabling a culture of complicity and inaction:

  1. Complying with the law is not enough

Sure, compliance is important. I am a lawyer after all. But if your company’s number one concern is simply following the law, you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands than you may realize. By over-focusing on compliance, employees may begin to think, “Oh great, all you want to do is prevent unlawful harassment from occurring… not bullying, disrespectful behavior or sexually charged comments.” This clearly won’t lend itself to a very welcoming or productive environment.

  1. Address the problem early, and head on

The #MeToo movement was brought on by a group of women who were fed up with the chronic inaction that surrounds sexual harassment. Actively investigating these incidents as soon as they occur or are reported will prevent the incidents from escalating in severity and also protect both the employee and the company. Plus, honestly, it’s just the right thing to do!

  1. Enable change and empower those around you

How can you use this movement to make a positive impact on your company? A good place to start is by making sure your employees are comfortable with reporting instances of sexual harassment. Did you know that in a recent survey of in-house attorneys, their response to the question of “Are your employees comfortable reporting misconduct?” was a measly 30% — meaning that a staggering 70% are NOT comfortable reporting. Let’s change that number by continuing this crucial dialogue and providing the resources necessary to take action. It is also vital to empower women and other underrepresented employees to pursue board positions and executive leadership roles in order to allow a different perspective to surface when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Hopefully these insights will help you feel more comfortable navigating #MeToo in your workplace.

Patti Perez serves as VP of Workplace Strategy for Emtrain. Learn more about Patti Perez and her work with Emtrain.