When workplace trainings can backfire

In the wake of a national reckoning on sexual harassment, employers are re-examining their training policies with a c...

Posted: Jan 30, 2018 3:46 AM
Updated: Jan 30, 2018 3:46 AM

In the wake of a national reckoning on sexual harassment, employers are re-examining their training policies with a critical eye.

Studies emphasizes the importance of hiring diverse teams -- they're safer environments for women and minorities, but they also benefit a company's bottom line.

Yet diversity and sensitivity trainings have been criticized as perfunctory, corny or even boring. Sexual harassment training is often considered just another box to check at orientation.

But some men's reactions aren't so blas- -- some leave these mandatory trainings feeling blamed, isolated or angered.

"A lot of men just feel wrongly accused or on-the-spot," says Mitch Keil, founder of Dignity Awareness, a sexual harassment training workshop. "I think underneath that, they all feel helpless to deal with this in any kind of way, so a lot of men shut down or turn it into a joke, and just feel threatened in these workshops."

Related: How men can help women fight sexual harassment

According to research from Frank Dobbin, professor of sociology at Harvard, training can fail if it relies too much on legalese or paints attendees as the "bad guys."

"When you interview people who have gone through regular diversity training -- white men who are making most of the hiring decisions because they occupy most management jobs -- they often come away angry, feeling like they've been blamed for something that isn't their fault, very defensive about being sexist and racist,'" Dobbin says.

Traditional strategies often backfire: like when trainings emphasize the legal penalties a company could face in cases of bad behavior.

"I think men don't know what to do," Keil says. "They want to make changes, they want to help, they want to be a part of this -- but they're just not sure how. And the fear kind of keeps them silent."

Training that instead cast attendees in a positive light, showing them the things they can do to prevent harassment, is often more effective, Dobbin says.

Related: Why most sexual harassment training videos don't work

This is where we see more focus on bystander intervention, a kind of training that focuses on empowering employees to stop bad behavior when they witness it. People report leaving these kinds of trainings with a sense of positivity, Dobbin says. They feel that instead of being the problem causing harm at work, they're instead "breaking the cycle."

Better training should also include education, according to Joanne Lipman author of "That's What She Said," a book about men and women in the workplace. Without a conversation that involves both women and men, she says, male employees won't have the education necessary to recognize what discrimination and harassment look like to female employees.

"There are all these things that are invisible to men, and if we make them visible and make them aware of them, I think there's a lot of men who would like to try and help close the gap," she says. "The vast majority of men are not sexual predators."

Tell us about the conversations you've had about sexual harassment. Share your response here and your response could be featured in an upcoming story on CNNMoney.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2527230

Reported Deaths: 56169
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings33439110849
Queens31559610296
Suffolk2398773609
Nassau2145703296
Bronx2078026754
New York1682394637
Westchester1437172340
Erie1065781950
Richmond890341936
Monroe845321188
Orange57620920
Rockland53178779
Onondaga52166762
Dutchess35671499
Albany30915390
Oneida28720589
Broome24552407
Niagara24076397
Saratoga20342201
Ulster17300280
Schenectady16779228
Rensselaer14839167
Putnam1250998
Chautauqua12449175
Oswego11708113
Chemung10966156
St. Lawrence10598127
Steuben10185173
Ontario9378110
Jefferson892476
Cayuga8674107
Sullivan849883
Wayne820284
Cattaraugus7752115
Genesee7038132
Herkimer6831128
Clinton675040
Tompkins652659
Fulton6365104
Madison6220102
Montgomery5993141
Livingston575571
Warren550184
Cortland535780
Tioga513072
Columbia5025111
Chenango470686
Allegany464197
Washington464167
Otsego459255
Wyoming440758
Greene440186
Orleans435587
Franklin430021
Lewis362138
Delaware357448
Seneca274663
Essex232731
Schoharie230121
Yates165728
Schuyler154417
Hamilton4383
Unassigned15130
Out of NY0318
Utica
Mostly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 44°
Oneonta
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 38°
Herkimer
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 44°
Old Forge
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 44°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Game Day Deals - New Deals Each Week
Chapter Aesthetic October Giveaway
Cool To Be Kind 2021
Looking for work or looking to hire? Check out the WKTV Job Fair!
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve