Tilak Rishi's weblog

Musings on writing, expression, world politics, journalism, movies, philosophy, life, humour...

My Photo

Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Trained To Walk On Eggshells!

Workplace sexual harassment is often hard to identify—and even harder to manage. It comes in many forms, occurs at every level, and is often unnoticed and unadvised until it leads to more devastating consequences. By and large, it includes any of the following forms:

* physical contact which is unwanted
* unwelcome remarks about a person's age, dress, appearance, race or marital status
* jokes, offensive language, gossip, slander, sectarian songs and letters
* posters, graffiti, obscene gestures, flags, bunting and emblems
* coercion for sexual favors

Eighteen years ago in USA, Anita Hill's testimony at the 1991 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas made sexual harassment a household term. Hill's testimony that Thomas had made inappropriate sexual advances in the workplace triggered a nationwide trend toward sexual harassment prevention training. Today, millions of Americans have completed courses in the do's and don'ts of workplace behavior. And in California, the training -- which now also addresses discrimination based on age, disability, race, religion and national origin -- has been required for all supervisors since 2005.Though it may be too soon to gauge the absolute success of the training, experts say it is one reason that sexual harassment claims have declined in every type of workplace.

The purpose of training is for employers to resolve problems through their own complaint procedures and policies, which helps to preserve a positive working relationship. In 90 percent of these cases, when the violators are clearly told the behavior is not tolerated, it will stop. But when that message is not communicated, that's when the thing escalates. An environment where harassment is not acceptable helps to build trust, and the increase in trust means you can keep and attract better employees. You have more productivity, higher profits. The gain is far greater than the cost.

Organizations walk a fine line between ensuring employee productivity and interfering in the private affairs of their employees. Decision makers in most organizations recognize that some form of managerial intervention is required when a workplace romance presents a serious threat to the conduct of work or group morale. With both of these concerns in mind, provide training for supervisors and managers about how to discreetly address overt sexual behavior in the workplace. You will also want the supervisors comfortable coaching the dating couple if the relationship results in lowered morale and productivity for themselves or coworkers. An employer’s first responsibility is to put in place a robust and well communicated policy that clearly articulates the organization's commitment to promoting dignity and respect at work and a zero tolerance approach to both harassment and bullying. Employers need to take action to prevent harassment, support the reporting of all incidents no matter how minor, respond promptly and ensure the corporate policy is followed correctly. Harassment and bullying thrive in a workplace culture where it is ignored rather than challenged. A well-designed policy statement is essential in addressing harassment. Policy statements should be agreed with union or employee representatives. A policy does not automatically change attitudes and behaviors. All corporate communication tools should reflect a zero tolerance of bullying and harassment and managers should have clear targets for ensuring that this is not a factor in their teams.

Achieving high levels of performance from people at work is essential in today’s competitive market place. Organizations should treat any form of harassment or bullying seriously not just because of the legal implications, but because it can lead to under-performance at work. Eliminating all forms of harassment and bullying makes good business sense. A workplace environment which is free from hostility enables people to contribute more effectively to organizational success and to achieve higher levels of job satisfaction. People cannot make their best contribution when under fear of harassment, bullying or abuse.

An organization's public image can be badly damaged when incidents of harassment occur, particularly when they attract media attention. This can affect relationships between an employer, their current and future employees, as well as their customers. Organizations must address the human or systemic failures that may foster a climate where bullying is acceptable. The conflict which harassment creates should not be underestimated. Employees can be subject to high levels of stress which can reduce engagement and may lead to higher labour turnover, increased sickness absence and less productive and effective teams. Developing and implementing preventive policies and procedures creates a climate of greater confidence in being able to challenge harassment. The right policies and procedures enable employers to tackle individual complaints quickly and effectively. An organization's goal should be to develop a culture in which harassment is known to be unacceptable and where individuals are confident enough to bring complaints without fear of ridicule or reprisal. Everybody needs to feel responsible for challenging all forms of harassment and for upholding personal dignity.

In addition to the training, another reason for the decline is the heightened awareness of the cost of sexual harassment cases. In USA, the average harassment jury award is $1 million. People rail against the legal system, but with sexual harassment, it has been an extraordinary deterrent. When employers saw the $3 million final verdict in the Baker & McKenzie case, it changed how business was done. That 1994 case took place in the Palo Alto office of one of the world's largest law firms, Baker & McKenzie. A jury awarded a record $7 million verdict (later reduced to $3 million) to a woman who claimed to have been repeatedly sexually harassed and humiliated by her boss. The case threw a floodlight on the importance of training all employees, including top management and high-performance rainmakers. If that judgment conveys its intended meaning, law firms and other enterprises across the country will bolt from their complacency and rectify the mistreatment of women in the workplace. Though some people feel constrained by the more cautious atmosphere in the workplace. They complain about walking on eggshells and fearing a lawsuit if they so much as compliment a coworker. But this is what the training is all about.


Post a Comment

<< Home