Sexual harassment in the workplace.
It’s one of the most significant, relevant issues before us, today. Christine Talbot, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, at World Vision U.S., takes the issue seriously. As you would expect from someone who wants the best for the 1,000 employees she oversees, Christine doesn’t mince words:
“While sexual harassment is in all workplaces, we’re witnessing today a very strong, liberating, and painful movement that strives to bring about healing to the victims of sexual assault and harassment.”
One in four women and one in eleven men have experienced sexual harassment at some point in the workplace.”
What can this look like for Christian leaders called to shepherd the flock that is among you (I Peter 5:2)? Christine’s response is nothing but practical, prayerful and proactive:
Become Aware of the Reality
Fact: “One in four women, and one in eleven men, have experienced sexual harassment at some point in the workplace,” says Christine. “These are my colleagues and friends. I can look back over my working years and identify inappropriate words, gestures, and threats. I didn’t realize then, as I do now, how intimidating these experiences were.
“My attention to sexual harassment in the workplace was heightened in a fresh, new way at the advent of the #metoo movement. As I listened to and read the stories and allowed my head and my heart to be deeply moved by the stories coming out, thinking about the survivors and the victims. I was touched in a way to take extra time to get beyond the news and read blogs and books and hear what men and women in Christian workplaces were saying about this topic.”
Be Proactive in Your Response
“What I’m suggesting is an approach that includes cultivating a genuine sensitivity within ourselves and within our organizations, ensuring a readiness to respond, and a willingness to act as roots of our leadership in effectively working to prevent sexual harassment and harm in our organizations.”
Whether your workplace culture involves a church, organization, or Christian-led business, Christine advocates a six-step approach:
1. Have a policy on harassment and abuse in the workplace.
“It needs to be spelled out. All people need to know about this policy.”
2. The CEO’s statement needs to be clear.
“The top leader must be clear: ‘We do not tolerate harassment. We have a harassment-free workplace.’”
3. Define reporting avenues so that those who report harassment feel safe.
“An organization’s policies, training, and investigations must reflect sensitivity to survivors. This involves providing safe places for people who feel unsafe and believe they’ve experienced something inappropriate at work.”
4. Address claims quickly.
“Human resource staff are sensitive and capable to receive a report and give employees confidence and trust in the process that includes rapid responses and readiness to use leaves of absence, work from home, and counseling referrals for survivors. Thorough, investigative fact-finding needs to be honoring of all parties, to determine what has, and has not, happened.”
5. Create and follow a checklist of good hygiene prevention training.
“Appropriate next-step recommendations, such as coaching, harassment prevention training will contribute to a constructive process and preferably swift closure.”
6. Leaders must understand the issue in the head, but more importantly from the heart.
“The tone at the top must be when we, as leaders, speak from both our head and our heart, our staff will then believe in us. They will see we are committed to creating workplaces that are safe and harassment-free. We’ll be developing the confidence in our teams that if and when something should happen, we will take an employee’s story seriously and there will be proper actions taken.”
At World Vision, says Christine, “we have a new initiative requiring all managers to participate in interactive training on the dynamics of power. This training invites a scriptural study of power and examines real workplace scenarios. Each manager develops their own personal action plan to help translate what they learned to what they plan to do differently and commit to doing with their teams. We’re on track for all of our managers to complete the course.
“To date, 96% of managers say this course has equipped them to better handle their power. We plan to adapt the content for all staff to learn the dynamics of power in their roles.
“We, as Christian leaders, have been called to a higher standard to bear our own share of making changes addressing this issue, speaking out, and caring about our society, and also responding to biblical mandates about what our workplace should be like.”
Here is Christine’s invitation every leader can RSVP: “What would happen if you were to explore the topic of sexual harassment for 30 days? Go at your own pace. Start with your own questions and the ways you like to learn, including online searches, podcasts, blogs, articles, and books. You decide. Get beyond media sound bites and go beyond what you’ve heard so far. Open your mind and your heart and prayerfully ask God to give you a broader understanding of what it means when someone experiences sexual harassment. Then, ask God what you need to do in your role and sphere of work.”
It’s Your Turn
Have you ever ventured a conversation with anyone around the topic of being harassed at work? If so, how did it go, and what did you get out of it? Who is someone you feel safe with to have a trusting conversation?
Coming Up Next on our Continuing Series
“How to Change Your Workplace Culture for the Better”
Jason Rachels, Head of School, Calvary Christian Academy
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
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