The Stupidity of Harassment Training

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The Washington Post reports in an article by Elise Viebeck that the Senate will bring themselves more in line with the rest of the government, as they introduced a bipartisan resolution that would require senators and their aides to undergo periodic training to prevent sexual harassment, a persistent problem on Capitol Hill. I maintain that these namby-pamby trainings, presented well outside of the context where these injustices occur, are a complete waste of time. Frankly, these Senators, as legislators, should be strengthening the laws on abuse, not being brought up to speed on knowing right from wrong! In the words of Trevor Noah, "Let's be clear. Going to sex rehab doesn't absolve you if you committed sex crimes. We're not stupid, guys. There's never been a 'Special Victims Unit' that ends with Ice -T, going, 'Get this serial rapist to Gentle Path at Meadows, I hope you like water aerobics, punk.'"
Because of Weinstein, leadership in all sectors is looking for the magic bullet, not to prevent bullying harassment and abuse, but to have a legal shield. This is not sufficient. It has not been since Anita Hill. And it won’t be now, or in the future. It’s 2017 already! I don’t know how many billions have been spent on this sort of training; however, most of these programs are just a bunch of human resource gobbledygook that have little if any positive impact on the problem.

What is required is pretty simple. At first whiff of a problem there should be an intervention, which is a direct one way discussion with the person who is suspected of bullying, harassment or abuse with the following message: “There is noise out there that you may be doing X.” At this point the person will likely try to defend themselves, which should be responded to with, “I am not accusing you; all I am telling you is what I am hearing, and don’t deny me of that. All I want is for the noise to stop; and if you are doing anything that is creating the noise, STOP IT!! Also, if anyone is retaliated against because of this discussion, you’re gone, end of discussion.” 

Throughout my career, I have had this discussion with many people, and in 99 % of the time, the noise stops - and so does the abuse. Now this discussion requires that those who are targeted and bystanders have a safe zone to go to ask that a situation be properly and immediately dealt with. In my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, I provide specific and pragmatic advice on how to create cultures where bullying, harassment and abuse is just not tolerated, and people feel absolutely comfortable coming forward, not having to wait years for situations to get exposed. 

Since my first book on bullying, I have turned down numerous requests to conduct harassment training because people don’t need more training. What they need is less tolerance by leadership - period.

Another observation I will make is that people cannot be trained to not abuse. People need to be told in no uncertain terms, as I discussed in my recent blog, where Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria firmly reminded his audience of some 4000 cadets in an address at the Air Force Academy, that ‘small thinking and horrible ideas’ have no place here.

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