Sexual Harassment Strategies: Training Bystanders

Published on November 27, 2017

Ksenia Krylova

High-profile sexual harassment claims from businesses, government, entertainment and other organizations have been front and center in recent weeks.

What are best practices for organizations committed to a change for the better?

Clinical Assistant Professor of Management Ksenia Krylova, Ph.D., L.L.M., has conducted research in organizational trust, apologies, dispositional attributions, impression management and forgiveness.

Findings from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s 2016 Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace suggest wholesale changes in workplace culture are needed to address the issue, she said.

“One of the main findings of the task force is that organizational culture is the main determinant of how prevailing sexual harassment is at the workplace, or, on the contrary, how intolerant is the whole environment to the instances of sexualized behavior,” Krylova said.

In addition to strong organizational leadership and commitment to a diverse and respectful workplace, the role of bystanders is increasingly being considered as a key to prevention, Krylova said.

“By making a decision to either remain silent or take an action, co-workers who see sexual harassment going on have the biggest impact on how organizational culture is shaped,” she said.

She noted that Sheryl Sandberg squarely addresses the need to make everyone in the workplace accountable in this quote from The New York Times: “If you know something is happening and you fail to take action, whether you are a man or a woman – especially when you are in power – you are responsible too.”

Four strategies for effective bystander training as detailed by the EEOC report:

  • Create awareness.
  • Create a sense of collective responsibility.
  • Create a sense of empowerment for intervening when appropriate.
  • Provide resources for bystanders to call upon that support intervention.