If you can’t write the word sex in a work email, how can you talk about #MeToo?
When you work with a lot of clients who all have different cultures, like we do, it’s not often that I can share the same advice across the board. Even within a company, we’ve seen vastly different styles; for instance, you might have a leader who drops F-bombs and another one who keeps their emails PG.
So, I’ve asked myself several times how internal communicators and HR professionals can address the #MeToo movement, especially if they’re in a more conservative environment. Here’s my advice to everyone no matter where you work: channel the many brave people who spoke out against sexual harassment, sexism and misogyny. Urge leaders and managers to acknowledge #MeToo and speak openly to employees.
Have you tried to bring it up before? Try again. As internal communicators and HR professionals, we’re a persistent bunch and regularly adapt to the changing needs of our employees. Sometimes we have to pitch an idea a few times (or more!) to our leaders because we know it’s the right thing to do for our employees. Let’s face it—we know that it’s not good enough to simply have a sexual harassment policy buried somewhere on the intranet or offer outdated training. It’s time to admit that time’s up on avoiding #MeToo, and it’s time to do more.
Standing up to sexual harassment, misogyny and sexism is not political. Telling employees that you will fight against sexual harassment is the right thing to do. Providing a safe space for employees who are survivors to come together and connect is the right thing to do. So is arming managers with strategies to foster an inclusive environment and spot sexist comments or behaviors. That’s why you can’t give up if someone tells you, “We don’t talk about political issues in the office.” It’s not political. (Case in point: these CEOs are taking action to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.)
If you’re still unsure about whether or not to push the issue, ask yourself this question: If my leaders are silent, how can I expect employees to have a voice and feel safe at work?
PS—Be sure to check out this amazing resource my colleague, Bethany, came across. It’s a post by Michelle Kim of Awaken about how companies can respond to #MeToo. Not only does it include an expert take on the big-picture societal issues at play, it shares a thoughtful, detailed email you could circulate to employees and some terrific guidelines on setting up discussion groups and more.