Fostering a Healthy Workplace Culture

When I listened to Rhea’s voicemail message, I could hear the panic in her voice. She said that she had made an appointment for later that week, but she felt she needed to talk to someone right away because she was so concerned about the situation she and the other owners of her company were facing. I called her back and she explained to me that a man who worked for her had accused a female co-worker of sexual assault and harassment. She wanted to make sure everyone was safe and that she was conducting an appropriate investigation, and she was also worried that these allegations could ruin her business’s reputation in the community.

Even though it’s hard for many of us to even acknowledge, the emotional and physical impacts of harassment and discrimination are not the only issues many business owners need to face when they have employees. When we love our employees and think of our workplace as a family, it is stressful to think about anyone in that work family feeling unsafe or anyone in that work family creating an unsafe situation.

On top of that, though, allegations of harassment and discrimination can seriously impact how the public sees a business. A Harvard Business Review Study published in June 2018, titled How Sexual Harassment Affects a Company’s Public Image, reported that a single allegation of sexual harassment can create the public impression that an entire organization has a systemic cultural problem. The study also reported that if the public hears an organization’s response was timely, informative, and considerate to the victim, it eliminates the public perception that the organization has a systemic cultural problem. So, one incident of sexual harassment can significantly hurt a business, unless the business responds effectively to restore the company to a position of cultural health. As you probably know, the #MeToo movement generated interest in sexual harassment, and that promoted research studies and surveys on sexual harassment in 2018, showing how common sexual harassment is. This study is one of those.