There is no one magic bullet to stop workplace harassment or prevent its occurrence and the efficacy of solutions such as training varies widely, a panel of psychologists told the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s(EEOC) Select Task Force on Workplace Harassment (STF) at a public meeting held recently. This was the first public meeting of the STF. The STF was set up by EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang in January, 2015, and is co-chaired by EEOC Commissioners Chai R. Feldblum and Victoria A. Lipnic, with the participation of individuals representing the worlds of academia, law, labor and business. This meeting was designed to explore the scope of the problem and the types of research already existing on the issue of workplace harassment. It is well known that “harassment is pervasive, damaging to individuals, and costly to organizations, but what are its causes?” asked Dr. Mindy Bergman, Associate Professor of Psychology, Texas A&M University. “One of the most important [factors] is organizational climate. When an organization is more tolerant of harassing behavior, more harassing behavior occurs.”
While training is a common response to the problem of workplace harassment, its ability to solve the problem is not uniform, noted Dr. Eden King, Professor of Psychology at George Mason University. However, training which is live, rather than done on a computer, lasts more than four hours, and includes role-playing that puts the trainee in the place of a stigmatized co-worker, when combined with specific goal setting by a mentor or supervisor, can have the greatest effect, her research has showed. [This type of training has been demonstrated at the Association’s last three National conferences. The workshop is again updated and will be presented at the Association’s Fall 2015 conference in San Diego with EEOC involvement.]
“[The] presentations were extremely informative. They will help guide our work in developing creative strategies for preventing harassment in the workplace,” said Feldblum. “I am also excited about the launch of our public web page and look forward to hearing suggestions from the public on how to solve workplace harassment.” The page may be found at www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment.