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 2:46 AM
Updated: Jan 30, 2018 2:46 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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
Bolivar4954134
Oktibbeha494398
Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
Pontotoc447773
Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
Prentiss298863
Covington293484
Leake285475
Marion284181
Wayne277543
George272251
Grenada269488
Newton262364
Tishomingo239770
Winston236784
Jasper230648
Stone229637
Attala226373
Chickasaw219060
Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 587405

Reported Deaths: 11536
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson853851591
Mobile48932864
Madison37517533
Shelby27280257
Tuscaloosa27171465
Montgomery26172627
Baldwin25399329
Lee17224181
Calhoun15401334
Morgan15170291
Etowah14954370
Marshall13116235
Houston12077293
Elmore10915219
St. Clair10763252
Limestone10725158
Cullman10546205
Lauderdale10255254
DeKalb9508192
Talladega8949188
Walker7793288
Autauga7563114
Jackson7400117
Blount7362139
Colbert6703142
Coffee6365132
Dale5650117
Russell480243
Chilton4771117
Covington4749125
Franklin458181
Tallapoosa4519156
Escambia441383
Chambers3949125
Dallas3743163
Clarke371263
Marion3463107
Pike332579
Lawrence3263100
Winston298773
Bibb290465
Geneva283983
Marengo262467
Barbour250961
Pickens245562
Butler240872
Hale235578
Fayette227065
Henry213945
Monroe202141
Randolph201144
Cherokee199248
Washington185239
Macon170552
Crenshaw168358
Clay166259
Cleburne161345
Lamar151038
Lowndes145455
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh121332
Coosa118329
Perry110528
Sumter110333
Greene99137
Choctaw64425
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