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Three Ways Dealers Can Better Address Harassment in The Workplace

In the past couple of months, it is impossible to turn on a television or surf the internet without hearing about a new harassment case. Sexual harassment has always been an issue in the workplace, but for the first time in a while, thoughtful conversations around the topic are being had in the public discourse. In the automotive industry, women make up 19 percent of the automotive dealer workplace, with the majority holding support positions. A recent survey by CDK Global indicated that 57 percent of female respondents experienced gender bias and sexist banter. Due to the issues plaguing workplaces in Hollywood, it is worth it to discuss ways dealers can encourage a safe and inclusive environment that discourages harassment of any kind.

According to Nolo.com, sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct on the job that causes an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. This type of harassment can come in many different forms, and it is crucial that dealers, managers, and all supervisors are aware of what constitutes a form of harassment. Here are ways dealers can create a culture that does not allow this behavior to take root.

Properly Train Staff

There are three factors managers need to pay attention to when incorporating thorough harassment training:

  •    Everyone should be involved: An exemplary training program can be expensive, so it can be tempting to allow top management not to participate. However, it sets a poor example when leadership is not on board with efforts to make all employees feel comfortable in the workplace. Therefore, it should be mandatory that all employees attend regardless of their position or stature.

  •  Blend rules with a discussion about behaviors: Informing employees of general rules regarding sexual misconduct is essential, but it is important to include detailed conversations about specific actions that can lead to problematic situations. These are made even more effective by connecting desirable behaviors with the overall vision and expectations of the dealership. Preventing harassment should align with overall principles.

  •   Make it engaging and interactive: Training should allow for discussions that will enable employees to ask questions and inquiries about policies. They should also not be a one-time thing; harassment training should be routine to reinforce the fact that prevention of unfavorable behaviors is a priority. A great way to make these sessions even more relatable is to reveal the profound impact sexual misconduct has on the lives of victims and how it can create a toxic work environment that benefits no one.

Establish A Reporting System

First, dealers need to make sure that they have established an effective and cohesive reporting procedure if an incident does occur. Next, all employees need to be adequately informed of the steps they should take to make a complaint.

  •    Establish a clear sexual harassment policy – This policy should first convey that harassment of any kind will not be tolerated under any circumstances. It should include details that designate a person that employees can report the harassment to, defines the offending behaviors that count, and explains consequences and parameters for investigation.

  •    Anything reported should be promised to be kept confidential – It is critical that employees feel they are in an environment where they can come forward about behaviors of misconduct. A reporting procedure should reiterate that all information will be kept confidential. The designated person that takes the complaint should also confirm this when speaking with the employee.

  •   A thorough investigation should take place – Offenders and victims will not treat any system seriously if claims are not properly followed up on. Both parties should feel the investigation was fair and without preconceived notions that prevent action if a complaint is found to be valid.

For those who may not have established a reporting procedure, some great resources can be found at smallbusiness.findlaw.com to get started. It is also a good idea to receive advice from an employment lawyer.

Create a Culture of Prevention

While training and an efficient reporting system are critical, complaints can be brought down to a minimum if a culture of respect is first established. For example, if a colleague sees a co-worker making an inappropriate joke or a comment that could be interpreted negatively, they should be made to feel comfortable to speak up and either speak with the co-worker privately or report it to their superior, confident that something will be done to address it. Managers and supervisors should lead the charge by using respectful language and staying away from questionable comments.

Another way to curb this type of behavior is to strive for gender diversity in leadership. If a woman is in a leadership position, then it is highly likely that instances of sexual misconduct will not happen due to her presence. Harassment can happen to anyone anywhere, and it is vital for dealers to create zero-tolerance policies for safer workspaces.  

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Chanell Turner
Chanell Turner
Chanell Turner is a contributing writer and investigative journalist for CBT News.

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