Leaders: The Expense of Sexual Harassment

sexual harassment

The workplace is continuously dealing with sexual harassment claims and lawsuits. These impact performance, moral, and bottom line-results. This toxic behavior is poisonous to organizational heath.

“What can we do to avoid this? How can we make this better?”

Sexual Harassment = Bad Business

Here’s a story…

My first job after graduate school was working for the federal government in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). A few months into the job, a female air traffic controller sued her boss and co-workers in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), at the tune of $1 million dollars, for creating an offensive, intimidating, and hostile work environment.

She alleged that they sent pornographic photos across the screen of her computer while she was monitoring the safety of airplanes in flight and during landings.

OPM mandated sexual harassment training for all supervisors and managers in the FAA and I designed and conducted the first-ever sexual harassment training for federal employees.

That was in the 1980’s. Fast forward thirty years and the workplace is still rampant with sexual harassment claims and lawsuits.

On January 9, 2006, the largest sexual harassment lawsuit to date, at $1 billion dollars, was filed in Manhattan against Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein Services, the American branch of Dresdner Bank of Germany.

The complaint cited lewd behavior toward women, entertainment of clients at a strip club, and reduced opportunities for women who returned to the job after maternity leave.

Sexual harassment in the workplace presents an ongoing and growing risk.

Help on the Way

 Five Tips For Eliminating Sexual Harassment In the Workplace

1. Act before a problem occurs

Failure to adopt a proactive and aggressive stance on sexual harassment in the workplace can result not only in costly lawsuits (averaging $350,000 not including legal fees), but also in loss of employee morale, decline in productivity, and an erosion of an organization’s public image. It is much less expensive to implement sexual harassment policies and training than it is to be involved in one sexual harassment lawsuit.

2. Implement policies

Include sexual harassment, discrimination and dress code policies in your employee manual.

3. Educate employees

The Supreme Court has made it clear that training employees about sexual harassment is one of the ways to protect your organization in a lawsuit. Educate employees about company policies, train supervisors to deal with complaints, and provide all employees with clear examples of inappropriate behavior.

California law mandates that employers who do business in California and employ 50 or more employees provide sexual harassment prevention training to supervisors located in California
every two years.

4. Make it safe to voice complaints

Provide a reporting system and make all employees aware of it. Federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against an individual for filing or supporting charges of discrimination. Train leaders how to listen and respond appropriately to discrimination complaints.

5. Hold leaders accountable to model your company values

When leaders fail to live up to your organization values, employees become de-motivated and angry. Provide ongoing training, coaching and review of your leaders.

From a purely business perspective, an organization stands to gain if it acts proactively. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

I am curious…

What kind of harassment prevention training does your company provide or don’t provide. Have you ever experienced harassment or bullying at work? Does your organization have an effective process for handling complaints and allegations? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Judith Lindenberger
 is the President of The Lindenberger Group

She helps clients with Human Resources Consulting, Training and Coaching
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | 609.730.1049

Image Sources: redorbit.com


The Cost of Making Assumptions


I am the former Vice President of my local school board. At each board retreat, our superintendent asked us one question to frame our mindset.

The one question was this:

“What legacy do you want to leave?

Each time, I gave the same answer:

“I want us to make decisions based on facts; not on emotion or opinion.”

Big Reality Check

You may know the story of The Stranger and the Ginger Nuts

If not, the story goes like this…

At the airport after a tiring business trip, a lady’s return flight was delayed. She went to the airport shop, bought a book, a coffee and a small packet containing five ginger nut biscuits. The airport was crowded and she found a seat in the lounge, next to a stranger.

After a few minutes’ reading she became absorbed in her book.

She took a biscuit from the packet and began to drink her coffee. To her great surprise, the stranger in the next seat calmly took one of the biscuits and ate it. Stunned, she couldn’t bring herself to say anything, or even to look at the stranger.

Nervously she continued reading. After a few minutes she slowly picked up and ate the third biscuit. Incredibly, the stranger took the fourth ginger nut and ate it. Then to the woman’s amazement, he picked up the packet and offered her the fifth and last biscuit.

This, being too much to tolerate, the lady angrily picked up her belongings, gave the stranger an indignant scowl and marched off to the boarding gate where her flight was now ready.

Flustered and enraged, she reached inside her bag for her boarding ticket. But rather, she found her unopened packet of ginger nuts.


Special Needs

As a school board member, my reason for wanting to leave a legacy of making decisions based on facts not assumptions is because of an early experience I had.

Case in point…

When I first got on the board, if a parent of a special needs child wanted to send their child to an out-of-district placement and we disagreed, we typically and quickly entered into litigation.

I added up our legal fees for this practice (about $100,000/year for several years) and heard from a dozen families who had been in conflict with our district.

Most families said the reason they asked to send their child to an out-of-district placement was because they had lost faith in us.

We did a comprehensive survey of staff, parents, and students and found that trust and communication between families and special education staff needed to be improved.

The previous board assumed that parents of special education students were asking for out-of-district placements because they were “greedy” or “angry at the world.”

These assumptions created a lack of trust and communication, cost taxpayers money, and were not in keeping with our mission of putting learning first.

Finding Solutions

Once we uncovered the root causes for parents asking for out of district placements, we developed strategies to create more open exchange and collaboration between our special education department and parents.

In my three years on the board, we reduced our special education costs by over three-quarters of a million dollars ($784,169 to be exact), even though salaries and private school tuition increased.

In addition to saving taxpayer dollars and repairing relationships, our special education students benefitted from improved trust and communication between parents and staff.

Just the Facts

Making decisions based on facts is not easy to do. We all have assumptions and opinions we carry with us every day. A quote I love about assumptions is from the actor, Alan Alda:

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

What do you think?


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders™

Judith Lindenberger
 is the President of The Lindenberger Group

She helps clients with Human Resources Consulting, Training and Coaching
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | 609.730.1049

Image Sources: rlv.zcache.com

Enhanced by Zemanta
L2L Spotlight on Excellence Specials

The Unwritten Rules of Career Success

Career Path

Last week I taught a half a dozen workshops for one of my clients on how to succeed at work.

In doing research for the workshop, I came across a survey entitled Unwritten Rules: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Career.

According to the authors, Laura Sabattini and Sarah Dinolfo, some very interesting and compelling components make up real success when it comes to one’s potential career path.

The authors say:

“Building professional relationships, whether through networks and affinity groups or with mentors, supervisors, and other individuals who can share knowledge emerged as particularly important.

Effective communication and defining career goals were also deemed important to success.

Respondents sometimes learned about important career rules by trial and error or simple observations, but many were proactive in asking colleagues and supervisors for information to understand how things work in their organization.

Respondents also said that they wished they had known that ‘just’ working hard is not enough to succeed or that they had been more aware of organizational politics and about the advantages of self-promotion.”

Technical Shmechnical…

In my experience as an executive coach, I often find that the people I coach are highly competent in their technical skills but need help with the kinds of skills that Sabattini and Dinolfo found are important to career success.

These are skills like:

  • Building professional relationships
  • Defining career goals
  • Asking others for feedback
  • Understanding organizational politics
  • Mastering self-promotion


L2L Spotlight on Excellence Specials

Defining Success

I asked the people in my workshops to brainstorm who in their organization they thought are highly successful and to give examples of what these stars do and the skills they have. Not surprisingly, the skills they came up with were in line with what the survey said.

According to participants in my workshops, successful people at their organization do the following:

  • Network with others
  • Plan to exceed expectations
  • Do what they say they will do
  • Take initiative

Self Awareness and Self Assessment

Checklist of SkillsIn collaboration with the leaders of the organization that I was serving, I designed a checklist of skills that were labeled as keys to success and grouped the skills under four categories.

Two categories were technical skills unique to this organization and the other two categories,”professional development” and “professionalism,” were more generic.

I had participants complete a self-assessment on the checklist.

The Results

Two skills came up in every group as areas on which the participants should work to improve. Both skills came under the category of professional development.

The results showed the following specific areas for improvement:

  1. Seek feedback from a variety of sources
  2. Accept constructive criticism in a constructive manner.

In seeking a solution to help the participants improve future performance, we brainstormed on how to seek, on how to be open to feedback, and how to prioritize and effectively use feedback for their own benefit.

Universal Career Success Needs

These two professional development skills are not unique to my client.

According to Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger, authors of For Your Improvement, career stallers and stoppers include Blocked Personal Learner (doesn’t seek input and uses few learning tactics) and Defensiveness (is not open to criticism).

I am curious. What are the top professional development skills you need to work on? What is stopping you from taking these on? What is driving you to do so? And, what cool things are you doing to develop these skills in yourself? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Judith Lindenberger
is the President of The Lindenberger Group

She helps clients with Human Resources Consulting, Training and Coaching
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | 609.730.1049

Image Sources: careerealism.com, my-easy-resume.com