Posted by: Alisha Sedor, Founder
Last week, I attended the first LMHQ Women's Breakfast of the year featuring a truly impressive panel of women: Amelia Harnish, Features Editor at Refinery29; Katrina Jones, Director of HR & Inclusion at Vimeo; Farah Tanis, Co-Founder/Executive Director at Black Women's Blueprint; and Sarah LaFleur, CEO of MM.LaFleur., moderated by Kimberly Weisul, Editor-at-Large at Inc.
The discussion revolved around the impact of #MeToo movement and addressed issues of harassment and abuse in the workplace. #MeToo has impacted the professional landscape in a myriad of ways, and it got me thinking about how we can be better managers in the face of workplace harassment. As managers, it is our responsibility to create workplaces that are safe for our employees so that they can thrive, grow, and produce their best work. While policy and culture change can be driven from the top or by HR teams, if this movement has shown us anything it's that we also need a groundswell from all levels. So, what can you do as an individual manager?
First, educate yourself. What is the #metoo movement? What are some of the cultural and structural shortcomings that have lead to a workplace culture where harassment has been casually accepted or even actively covered up? What resources do you have available in your workplace to protect and support your employees? Think about how you can make yourself, as a manager and peer, an approachable place for people to disclose.
Additionally, partnering with your HR team will be essential to ensuring that your company and your team have the mechanisms in place to deal with harassment. Especially in new startups, HR is an undervalued function that frequently isn't brought in until it's too late (take a look at Thinx for a case study). If you don't have harassment policies and programs in place, make the ask to HR or your leadership team, and work with them on creating a policy that works for your company. At the least, make a determination as to how people can report harassment and who is responsible for investigating allegations. If you do have policies in place already, make sure your direct reports are clued in to them because, let's be honest, no one reads the employee handbook in full. Better to be versed in what to do before something happens than to have to figure it out as you go when something goes wrong.
Lastly, be clear to your team that you're creating a safe space for your people. Encourage leadership at your company to drive this message from the top by being one of the members of your team that is vocal about these issues. Have 1:1 or group discussions with your team about harassment, how to identify it, how to combat it, and who they can go to if they're having a problem. Make yourself available as an advocate/ally in this process - become well versed in your company's HR policies and processes so that you can help your directs navigate the system if they don't know how to do it themselves. One of the best things anyone can do is serve as a support system to those who have experienced harassment and are unsure of how to handle it, or are questioning themselves and the validity of their claim. The pervasiveness of this culture often makes those who are harassed feel uncertain about whether they have a right to report. Serving as a listening ear and ally can help them feel empowered to take the approach that's best for them and quiet the voices of self-doubt.
Managers are the keepers of livelihood for so many people, so it’s our responsibility to help drive forward change that will make the workplace a better place for our directs. In the wake of #metoo, you can help create that safe space by addressing harassment head on and acting as a voice for yourself and your team.