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How Employees' Attitudes Affect Training Processes on Sexual Harassment

Nyamweya is a Kenyan scholar who has done many years of research on a diversity of topics

Introduction

Sexual harassment is a problem that businesses have been trying to overcome for many years. In 1980, the EEOC set guidelines pertaining towards sexual harassment making it easier to determine how to define sexual harassment (Eberhardt, Moser and McFadden 352). In order to overcome sexual harassment businesses have been providing their employees with sexual harassment training while also enforcing policies and grievance policies (Antecol and Cobb-Clark). By providing training to employees, businesses were able to make employees more sensitive to the issue and allow them to recognize sexual harassment problems easily, but there are- a lack of sexual harassment reports being field (Zugelder, Champagne and Maurer). The sexual harassment training provided has not impacted many businesses (Buckner et al.). There are many factors that have to be taken into consideration when providing sexual harassment training to employees, such as the type of training being provided and the context within which the training is provided. Whether or not these have an impact is determined by the attitudes that employees have towards sexual harassment.

An employee’s attitude towards sexual harassment can affect whether or not they are going to take the training provided seriously. If an employee’s attitude is positive or serious then the training is more likely to have an impact than if the employee did not think that the training was necessary or had a negative perspective towards the training (Walsh, Bauerle and Magley). However, the attitude of the employer is also important. If an employer was to have a negative view about sexual harassment and the training then the employees are more likely to feel the same way (McCabe and Hardman 722). The influence of other people’s views can also affect how people are impacted by the training being provided (Perry et al.). The training would be more impactful if employers and employees were to change their attitudes towards sexual harassment. According to Walsh, Bauerle and Magley when the people who are doing the training are motivated to learn then the training outcome is more preferable compared to when they are less motivated.

There are many people working within businesses that consider sexual harassment to be a serious issue. However, there are some employees that believe in sexual harassment myths. These myths deal with false beliefs pertaining to the motives, behaviors as well as victims of sexual harassment (Walsh, Bauerle and Magley). When people working in businesses believe in these myths they tend to have a more pessimistic attitude towards sexual harassment and the training being provided to them (Walsh, Bauerle and Magley). By having a pessimistic attitude and believing in these myths employees are less likely to be impacted by the sexual harassment training being provided (Walsh, Bauerle and Magley)

Along with the attitudes of the employees their perception of the organization they work for also plays a role in the training outcome. There are many organizations that provide sexual harassment training solely to protect themselves from the legal consequences (Perry, Kulik and Field). If training is being provided solely for the purpose of protecting the business then the employees are less likely to be impacted (Perry et al.). If they believe that the organization is not taking an issue seriously and they will not have to face the consequences for their actions then they are more likely to not be impacted by the training and will be less willing to participate in the training (Perry, Kulik and Field). Some factors that can affect an organizations climate are the policies they are implementing against sexual harassment, enforcing the policies and the employers’ opinion and attitude on sexual harassment and the gender ratio of the organization (McCabe and Hardman). These climates may prohibit the employees from applying information from the training to their everyday lives (McCabe & Hardman).

Literature Review

Sexual harassment is a serious and persistent issue in the business world. There have been numerous sexual harassment cases filed causing businesses to lose billions due to the dismissal of complaints. As a person who is going to be joining the human resources department and will be dealing with these cases, it is important to be aware of how businesses and the human resources department have been handling sexual harassment, how to better resolve the issue as well as understand the reason as to why it is not being taken seriously. This research will be a stepping stone in being able to see how the training outcome is affected by the employee’s attitudes.

In order to help with this serious issue many states have made training for sexual harassment required (Buckner et al. 257). There are many laws that have been put in place in order to enforce programs to help with sexual harassment (Buckner et al. 257). Many businesses have been implementing sexual harassment training and have policies that all employees are required to follow. Although many employers provide sexual harassment training, it appears that the effects have been short-term when they should be long-term.

Having poorly written policies or not having any policies at all can cause problems within the business and negatively affect their employees. There are many cases where employees do not seem to understand the process of filing a complaint of sexual harassment or they do not understand what to specifically define as sexual harassment (Peirce, Smolinski and Rosen). According to Perry, Kulik and Field sexual harassment can cause psychological and physiological effects. Therefore, in order to help with this persistent issue some changes need to be made.

This literature review will explore the issue of sexual harassment, the training being provided and how to help decrease the amount of cases filed. This literature will help to understand some of the factors that are prohibiting sexual harassment from being overcome and provide some background on what has already been done by others to overcome this problem. This will help to provide some background on sexual harassment and help to conduct research on how the attitudes of the employees affect how much of an impact the training has on the employees.

Sexual harassment has been a consistent issue for many businesses. Many actions have been taken in an attempt to make a difference. Buckner et al. stated that four ways the U.S law has helped to encourage or mandate sexual harassment training are by developing case law interpreting and applying Title VII of the Civil Rights Act elevating training to an effective defense to charge of harassment in many cases, EEOC guidelines requiring training, high profile settlement agreements and consent decrees typically incorporating a training component and lastly many state legislatures or governors enacting statutes or issued executive orders that mandate training. Even though the US law has helped with the issue of sexual harassment and sexual harassment training, it is still a persistent issue.

In businesses the ones who are put in charge of sexual harassment training are usually the managers and the human resources department. Employers are generally held accountable for the actions of the managers and others who are in positions of authority (Buckner et al. 263). However, with managers being in a position of authority it gives them the opportunity to abuse the power given to them. There are times when managers do not pay attention to the behaviors displayed by those who are in high positions of authority such as executives (Peirce, Smolinski and Rosen). If employees think that they will not have to face the consequences for their actions then they are more likely to not take the training being provided seriously (Buckner et al.). This then causes the steps businesses are currently taking to be unsuccessful and sexual harassment to be a persistent issue.

Sexual harassment training should be provided by all businesses and organizations, but it does have its limitations. Many states have made training mandatory, but very few have specifically addressed the details of the training (Buckner et al. 260). According to Peirce, Smolinski and Rosen many of the harassment policies that organizations have were criticized by EEOC attorneys, saying they were not up to par. Providing training to those working within the business allows employees and managers to become aware of the issue itself. Although training may be a good start in helping to prevent sexual harassment from occurring it can also cause some problems. It can cause some mangers to be too sensitive and increase fall positive identifications (Buckner et al. 262). Not to mention, it can also create a false sense of security for employees (Perry, Kulik and Field 818). There are many organizations that implement sexual harassment training for legal purposes thinking that the success of the training is less important than providing training (Perry et al. 199). In order to protect themselves from employer liability employers must prove that they attempted to prevent or help with any sexual harassment behavior that was displayed and that the employee did not take advantage of what was provided by the employer (Zugelder, Champagne and Maurer 116).

Sexual harassment training is provided to employees in order to help them become aware of the issue at hand while also allowing businesses to protect themselves from employer liability. Although it is not easy to construct sexual harassment training. The training can be costly and difficult for HR managers to design and implement, but by not providing good programs it can cause employees to retaliate (Perry, Kulik and Field 818). In order to help address the issue of the lack of effective sexual harassment training, some changes need to be made and concepts be taken into consideration.

There are factors that should be taken into consideration before training is provided to the employees. “Pretraining factors include individual characteristics, needs assessments, and motivational characteristics that exist prior to training and that can impact training effectiveness” (Perry et al. 189). Pretraining needs, which can assess the characteristics of individuals and the characteristics of the business, may impact the effects of the training (Perry, Kulik and Field 822). Along with pretraining factors, the employee’s attitude should also be considered. How effective a training program can be is influenced by the attitudes of the employees (Walsh et al., 2013). If employees think that organizations will tolerate their behavior then the training will be less effective and it could reduce their motivation to participate (Perry, Kulik and Field 821). These factors look at what could affect the training before the training even starts. However, there are more than just pretraining factors that should be looked at.

There are many factors that vary between businesses and the different types of training used. There are pre, during and post training factors to be taken into consideration, as well as training evaluation and the context within which training is provided, to determine training effectiveness (Perry, Kulik and Field). These factors can help to determine how to carry out sexual harassment training. They help figure out who needs to be trained, training methods and training content (Perry et al. 189). They all impact the training in their own way. Training activities before and after training occurs may have different effects than the context within which training occurs (Perry et al. 204). These factors play a role in how effective sexual harassment training can be. Training should be put together to best help those who will be receiving it instead of just providing general training to the entire organization. For future training, companies need to make sure that they are providing training because they care about their employees, not just to protect themselves, and that sexual harassment will not be tolerated by anyone.

In addition to the training factors, the types of training should also be taken into consideration. Currently passive sexual harassment training is being used by most companies, but it is not very effective. There are more effective methods that can replace the methods that are currently being used by businesses and organizations. The attitudes and behaviors of employees are less impacted by passive training methods than when they use active training methods.(Perry et al.190). Changing the type of methods used to provide training can better impact employees and allow the training to be more effective.

In order to help with the serious and persistent issue of sexual harassment there are many steps that can be taken by businesses. If they were to change the methods of training used, as well as adjust their reasoning for providing sexual harassment, they would be able to better benefit their employees. Although sexual harassment training is provided to employees, the type of training given is different for every company and often time’s states and businesses do not provide requirements for the training. Lisa Banks, a plantiffs attorney, said that work place training can help employees to become aware (“EEOC Group Looks Broadly at Harassment, Pondering Types of Abuse, Potential Solutions.”). In order to help reduce the amount of cases filed, it is best to have pre and post training while also making sure that businesses are letting employees know that they will not tolerate any form of sexual harassment. Businesses and Employees would be able to benefit by making some simple changes to their policies and making sure employees understand how to file complaints. The attitudes of the employees would also be impacting the effect that the training may have or how they view the training. By changing the attitudes of the employees it would benefit the organization. Looking at the attitudes and doing research on this will make it easier to determine how to better help businesses. Overall, providing proper policies and training would benefit both parties involved and make employees feel safer in the businesses that they work for. Through clearer policies and effective training methods, they would be able to create a safer working environment and save money on sexual harassment cases. There are many ways to improve the training being provided, but it differs for every company. By conducting research on the attitudes of the people working businesses would allow them to be able to determine how much of an impact it is having and they would then be able to decrease the amount of sexual harassment cases filed.

Research method

This research will be conducted to determine how the attitudes of the employees affect how much of an impact the sexual harassment training has on the employees. For this research four businesses with at least 2,000 employees will be chosen. The businesses that will be chosen are big corporations. The reason why this research will be looking at big corporations is due to the amount of employees working within the business. More employees would mean more data which would give a greater possibility for more accurate results.

The amount of sexual harassment cases that have been filed will be taken into consideration. Businesses who have low amounts, such as 2-3 sexual harassment cases filed will be chosen for businesses with few sexual harassment cases filed. Businesses who have 5 or more sexual harassment cases will used as the businesses with many sexual harassment cases filed. After placing the businesses into their assigned groups the employees will then be given surveys while the managers and the employers will be interviewed.

The surveys given to the employees will be questioning their feelings towards sexual harassment and the training that is provided to them by the organizations that they work for. By using surveys it will make it easier to gather and analyze data. The survey design that I will be using is cross-sectional (Creswell). A cross-sectional survey will make it easier to analyze and compare the data between the companies. The survey will be sent through the company using their company email. The surveys will contain questions pertaining to how employees feel about sexual harassment, how they feel about the training being provided, what they think their employers or manager’s view is as well as how the organization attempts to resolve the issue and whether or not they feel that they are doing a good job.

The interviews will be one-on-one interviews which will make it easier to receive information directly from the source. This will allow facial expressions and tones to be taken into consideration. The meaning of words change depending on someone’s tone or facial expressions. The interview will contain questions about how the employer feels about sexual harassment, their opinion on the training the company provides and how they feel the business is handling sexual harassment and whether or not it has made a difference. The interview will be conducted in person and will be recorded while notes are also being taken.

Discussion

The information from this study will be used in order to see how these businesses are dealing with sexual harassment and how the attitudes of the employees are affecting the impact of the sexual harassment training that is provided to them. By looking at the different attitudes that are displayed by the employees from both companies with many or few cases filed it will make it easier to determine how much it has affected the training and the effects of the training. Businesses will then be able to work on the attitudes of the employees and allow them to see how important it is to take the problem seriously.

Using surveys and interviews will make it easier to analyze data and also determine how to improve this issue. Fixing the attitudes of the employees can allow business to decrease the amount of cases filed and allow them to realize that sexual harassment is a persistent issue that needs to be taken seriously. By changing the attitudes of the employees it allows businesses to become one step closer to overcoming sexual harassment.

Although this research can be a starting point in helping businesses solving the issue of sexual harassment training, it does not necessarily mean that this is the only step needed to be taken to overcome sexual harassment. There is a chance that the employees within the business may not give honest answers or that they may converse with others and then answer questions provided through the survey. They could give answers that they feel the business would want them to give or that they feel would be the “right” answer. Since the surveys will not be conducted in person, the facial expressions won’t be seen. The people who are being questioned in the interview could talk amongst themselves or with other people in the company and give answers they feel that the researcher would want to hear.

However, this research will allow businesses to become more knowledgeable to the employees perception of the training and how it can impact the business overall. By looking at the attitudes of the employees businesses then can start to look at the other factors that are affecting sexual harassment. Some of the other factors that could be looked at are the types of training, the content of the training, the context within which the training is provided, sexual harassment policies and much more. After working on the attitudes of those who work within businesses the other factors can then be looked at. In order to help overcome the problem of sexual harassment these factors need to be taken into consideration. By doing further research on these issues it will then allow businesses to make necessary changes.

References

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Buckner, Grant, et al. "Managing Workplace Sexual Harassment: The Role Of Manager Training." Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal 26.4 (2014): 257-278. Business Source Complete. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

Creswell, John W. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Method Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.

Eberhardt, Bruce J., Steven B. Moser, and David McFadden. "Sexual Harassment In Small Government Units: An Investigation Of Policies And Attitudes." Public Personnel Management 28.3 (1999): 351. Business Source Complete. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

"EEOC Group Looks Broadly At Harassment, Pondering Types Of Abuse, Potential Solutions." HR Focus 93.1 (2016): 1-5. Business Source Complete. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

McCabe, Marita P., and Lisa Hardman. "Attitudes And Perceptions Of Workers To Sexual Harassment." Journal Of Social Psychology145.6 (2005): 719-740. Business Source Complete. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

Peirce, Ellen, Carol A. Smolinski, and Benson Rosen. "Why Sexual Harassment Complaints Fall On Deaf Ears." Academy Of Management Executive 12.3 (1998): 41-54. Business Source Complete. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

Perry, Elissa L., et al. "The Impact Of Reason For Training On The Relationship Between “Best Practices” And Sexual Harassment Training Effectiveness." Human Resource Development Quarterly 21.2 (2010): 187-208. Business Source Complete. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

Perry, Elissa L., Carol T. Kulik, and Marina P. Field. "Sexual Harassment Training: Recommendations To Address Gaps Between The Practitioner And Research Literatures." Human Resource Management 48.5 (2009): 817-837. Business Source Complete. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

Walsh, Benjamin M., Timothy J. Bauerle, and Vicki J. Magley. "Individual And Contextual Inhibitors Of Sexual Harassment Training Motivation." Human Resource Development Quarterly 24.2 (2013): 215-237. Business Source Complete. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

Zugelder, Michael, Paul Champagne, and Steven Maurer. "An Affirmative Defense To Sexual Harassment By Managers And Supervisors: Analyzing Employer Liability And Protecting Employee Rights In The United States." Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal 18.2 (2006): 111-122. Business Source Complete. Web. 14 Ap

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