FELLOWS: Addressing the evolution of harassment education – The Pioneer

Recently, I took part in Hearst Media’s anti-harassment and bias training, which is required for all of its employees. The experience pleasantly surprised me in its in-depth nature, as it covered a large amount of material and topics in a very thorough manner.

While going through the training, I was reminded of how important anti-harassment training is for employers and companies to educate their employees, as harassment in its forms has evolved through technological and social changes.

In such a divisive, frustrating, and confusing time in our world, I’m frankly not surprised that everyone is a bit on edge and reluctant to get back to work. The workplace can be a supportive and beneficial space, but for some, it can be a place where they face the worst of human behavior.

This entire year, many workplaces transitioned into an online or work from home setup for their employees, and it was a major adjustment for most. Harassment instances didn’t go away during this time in the workplace, they just went online. While some forms of harassment may have been lessened physically, they most assuredly continued occurring virtually.

According to the Pew Research Center, a 2021 survey of U.S. adults found that 41% of U.S. adults have personally experienced online harassment, and 25% have experienced more severe harassment. The same survey found that men are somewhat more likely than women to say they have experienced any form of harassment online (43% vs. 38%).

Online harassment is something that persists in workplaces and adversely affects different groups. It also allows for more covert harassment and new avenues for perpetrators. Educating employees on how to identify harassment forms is an important part of maintaining workplace safety, as well as making sure employees know how to report harassment.

In a diversifying and fast-progressing society, educating on respect for gender preference and preventing and addressing any discrimination helps create a more inclusive workplace environment. I was impressed with Hearst’s training that provided example scenarios for each section and addressed race, gender, and sexuality.

As an openly gay woman, I felt comforted knowing my employer takes such steps to address and educate on topics like harassment and address the intersectionality of the issue. Being a part of a 20,000-employee company like Hearst, it helps to know I’ll be seen and heard.

Creating an equitable, open, and inclusive workplace is more important than ever during a time when many will be adjusting back to in-person daily work. One of the best things we can be right now is patient with each other, this won’t be an easy transition and patience can go a long way in preventing hostility. This kind of hostility can lend itself to online and in-person harassment, which no workplace needs.

Being someone who just joined a workplace in their first post-graduate job, I can say my transition has been helped by communication, education, and patience from my peers and co-workers. I hope more companies will integrate harassment and inclusivity educational training in their policies because employees need to know that the place they work sees them and expresses concern for their safety and comfort.

Being understanding of people’s issues and concerns, especially when it comes to harassment, is important in helping solve and address adverse situations. Communication and the ability to listen to an employee’s needs during such a tumultuous time will be key in ensuring the in-person work transition can happen efficiently and with the people in mind.

I encourage every employer to highlight these issues and how they are addressed within the company or business and ensure that employees know who they can go to with concerns. Creating trust in any workplace can be done easily through open discussion and routes to problem-solving and addressing misconduct. Inclusivity improves every single workplace, and in my experience, improves work ethic.

I love knowing my employer will have my back, and I hope that every person can feel the same about where they work. Helping to find where passions can be best used, and where people can be respected and heard no matter who they are both online and off, is a great gift an employer can give their workers. Every person deserves a voice where they choose to work, now more than ever.