Suppose you have successfully responded to a workplace complaint by conducting a prompt and thorough investigation and reaching findings of fact (or, better still, you outsourced the investigation to Warren & Hays). The investigation found an employee violated the company policy prohibiting harassment or discrimination. What is your next course of action? A notation in the personnel file? Yes, that’s most likely necessary, but not always sufficient. One-on-one “sensitivity” training can be an excellent resource.
It sounds good, but what is it, exactly? The offending party meets with an experienced third-party trainer. During the course of the meeting, the trainer reviews the company policy, provides a detailed overview of the legal landscape and how the offender’s actions fit into it, instills the fear of God in the offender (by raising the specter of such terrors as personal liability), and coaches the offender on how to best avoid similar situations in the future. The coaching portion of the session can provide the most helpful long-term gains, both for the employee and the employer. Murky areas such as management style, workplace communications, unconscious bias, and increased sensitivity are explored in an interactive way. The result is often a better informed, more aware supervisor who is eager to hone her new-found skills.
I often hear from the skeptical client, “but can people really change?” It is true that deeply-held biases and ingrained attitudes can be hard to shift. But it is just a true that behavior in the workplace can be altered by training, coaching and, yes, scaring offending employees.