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Corporate Responsibility: #UsToo, Part 1
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Corporate Responsibility: #UsToo, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

Corporate Responsibility: #UsToo, Part 1

Executive Leadership Articles

Corporate Responsibility: #UsToo, Part 1

A year and a half after the #MeToo movement exploded across our news feeds, sexual harassment in the workplace remains a top-of-mind issue in social media and in break rooms everywhere. What are we doing in response, personally and professionally? And how do gender equity, transparency, and harassment policy fit into the sphere of corporate social responsibility? In part 1 of this series we’ll look at what people are saying about the issue.

CSR is about attention to the triple bottom line: people, profit, and planet. We can take the planet part out of consideration for this issue, but those other two are strongly connected to issues of workplace harassment, sexual or otherwise. First, the “people” part of the concept refers to employees, community members, and other stakeholders, so a company’s actions in addressing harassment problems and how it communicates its philosophies are an expression of its responsibility to all.

The profit piece of the puzzle is evident just from the way high-profile instances have played out. Companies are clearly aware of how public perception in harassment cases is connected to overall impressions of the companies. Television programs have been cancelled, movies have been shelved, and customer loyalties have shifted.

A study by the Harvard Business Review shows that “when people learn that a sexual harassment claim has been made in an organization, they not only see that organization as less equitable than an organization where no such claim was filed, but also less equitable than an organization where a claim of a different transgression, such as financial misconduct, was made.”

Respondents think less of a company with a sexual harassment claim has been made than one where a claim of financial misconduct has been made. A company’s treatment of people is more important to perception than its treatment of money.

Media attention has focused largely in the fields of entertainment, sports, and technology, but #MeToo has sparked conversation in companies everywhere. The insurance company AFLAC conducted a survey of 1001 workers nationwide and an additional 100 human resources managers on the topic of workplace harassment.

While the numbers largely support confidence in companies’ ability and willingness to respond appropriately to sexual harassment complaints, there’s an alarming number of employees with dimmer perceptions. 13 percent of employees have been sexually harassed at some point in their careers, including 24 percent of women who report to a male supervisor. 13 percent of employees believe there is a culture of silence about sexual harassment in their company. Data from HR managers, who have greater visibility into their companies, largely sustain employees’
experiences and beliefs.

Almost 100 percent of HR managers in the AFLAC survey rate acting ethically in their job as extremely or very important. Yet the numbers of employees (including senior management) who report having done or asked to do something unethical in their work is discouraging.

Part 2 of this series will take a look at what some experts recommend should be done by companies in this rapidly changing business climate.

Reference links:
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2018/06/research-how-sexual-harassment-affects-a-companys-public-image
AFLAC survey deck: https://www.aflac.com/docs/about-aflac/csr-survey-assets/2018-csr-survey-deck.pdf

 

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Corporate Responsibility: #UsToo, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

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