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Appropriate Work Atmosphere in the #MeToo Era

You've heard the warnings before, you should still read this.

The #MeToo movement is at the forefront of HR issues. It’s important, it’s timely, and the consequences for ignoring the movement are catastrophic. Everyone should be invested in ensuring a harassment-free workplace. It’s not simply harassers being at risk of losing their jobs; it involves significant reputational risk for a company, and can adversely impact a company’s ability to attract and retain quality employees.

How can managers ensure an inviting and productive workplace?

Create a professional and collaborative workplace where team building and open communication are encouraged and rewarded.

Managers should lead by example and create an atmosphere where people care about one another’s success and happiness. An inclusive environment helps prevent workplace harassment. Implement not just an open door policy, but pro-actively talk to employees about job satisfaction and the work environment. Hire a consultant to circulate anonymous 360 surveys. Identify potential problem employees; and if they can’t adhere to your workplace standards, fire them.

Use common sense; limit the number of offsite activities at night, and restrict the amount of alcohol at such events.

Provide frequent training with role-playing and remind employees in writing of your standards, the need to communicate their feelings, and involve HR when necessary.

Bottom-line: Preventing harassment in the workplace is not something you warn employees about on occasion, and then forget about it. It requires regular training and vigilance by all concerned. Managers and all employees should read How to Win Friends and Influence People. Time Magazine ranked it the 19th most influential book of all time. It has stood the test of time worldwide and provides great lessons for succeeding in business and in life.

How should employees conduct themselves at work?

Best practices are to make the workplace a professional environment. Using foul language, whether sexually-oriented or not, punking someone and telling jokes makes the company and the employee an easy target and exposes them to legal liability.

Communication is one key. Women and men communicate and process messages differently, often without realizing the disconnect. Read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Often someone who is teasing another employee is acting in good faith without ever realizing it offends the person they are “ribbing.” It’s incumbent on anyone offended by a boss or coworker to let them know in a firm and straightforward manner that their comments or actions are offensive and must stop. Usually, this solves the problem; if not, contact HR in writing.

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Rogge Dunn represents executives, entrepreneurs, and financial advisors in business and employment matters. These include the CEOs/ presidents of American Airlines, Beck Group, Dave & Buster’s, Gold’s Gym, Halliburton Energy Services, Kinko’s, Texas Capital Bancshares, Texas Tech University, Trammell Crow Holdings, and Whataburger. Corporate clients include Adecco, Beal Bank, Benihana, CBRE, Cintas, Match.com, Rent-A-Center, and Outback Steakhouse. Dunn has been a Super Lawyer every year Thomson Reuters has awarded that honor and recognized as one of the top 100 attorneys in Texas. He has been a D Magazine Best Lawyer 11 times. Executives and companies who need the power of a trial attorney, hire Rogge Dunn.

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