Borderless Impact (Webinar Replay) -

Discrimination & Harassment in the Workplace: 6 Tips for Training Managers

Discrimination & Harassment in the Workplace: 6 Tips for Training Managers

Studies show that 60% to 70% of women have been on the receiving end of discrimination and harassment in the workplace at some point during their careers. While these are staggering numbers, the data on discrimination is even more so.

A recent survey reported that 70% of respondents indicated that they experienced some discrimination or abusive behaviour at work. That average jumped to 86% for the youngest working generation, Gen-Z.

In the eyes of the law, ignorance is no excuse. Do your line managers know what to do when they come face to face with instances of discrimination and harassment in the workplace? Are they equipped to respond appropriately and with the right actions when employees report incidents of harassment and discrimination? 

If you aren’t convinced that your supervisors thoroughly understand what constitutes discrimination and harassment and how they can properly handle this problem, getting them trained in this area should be topmost on the list of your organisational training needs.  

But what exactly should be included in the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)  training curriculum for managers?  

In this article, we share a training guide that will help managers handle discrimination and harassment in the workplace and promote a work environment compliant with the EEO legislation. 

Discrimination & Harassment Training Guide for Managers

1. The Basics of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

The first topics to be addressed in training are protected categories. Your managers must know that there are laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment of any kind, based on: 

  • Origin 
  • Race/colour 
  • Gender discrimination 
  • Religion 
  • Sexual harassment 
  • Pregnancy discrimination

2. Complaint Recognition 

The best way to institutionalise compliance in your organisation is to make your managers liable for unexpected escalations.

Consequently, you must train line managers to understand what constitutes a complaint, how to listen to employees and the appropriate way to respond to them. Your managers must recognise when employees say they feel they are being discriminated against or treated differently.

For instance, train your supervisors to watch out for red lights, especially when phrases like, “I feel unfairly treated because I am female (or any of the other protected category identifier).”

Your line managers must be alert and quick to recognise phrases like this, and they must understand that it is their obligation to inform the appropriate authorities about the complaint. This is especially important because organisations are legally bound to investigate employee complaints about alleged discriminatory practices.

Finally, train your managers to make employees know that their concerns are taken seriously and treated with the utmost level of confidentiality.

3. How to Follow-up 

Train your managers on what to do when an employee brings a concern. They must know how to follow up the right way and continue to give feedback to the employee from time to time, keeping them abreast of developments.

Your managers must be taught that it is unacceptable for them to trivialise complaints or act like the concern didn’t happen. Train them to document accurately and keep records of all their check-ins with employees.

4. Make Training Highly Practical

As much as possible, ensure that the training programs are practical rather than the cramming of academic theories and definitions. 

Create scenarios that allow your managers to think fast and on their feet by talking through tricky scenarios. Help them realise that discrimination and harassment issues often prove very subtle. It’s a great idea to have group discussions at the end of the training or a question-answer session to facilitate understanding.

In addition, educate managers to know whom to report difficult cases to when they are in a situation they’re unsure about. Usually, this designated person is someone in HR.

5. Clarify the Process of Investigation 

The training must teach managers how to investigate complaints. The process for investigation must be uniform across the organisation. And though the process may differ from company-to-company, the following are the basics of an investigation process: 

  1. Have detailed conversations with the complainant. 
  2. Interview all relevant witnesses. 
  3. Have a conversation with the alleged offender and review any applicable documentation. 
  4. Finally, review all the findings to establish how to resolve the matter. 

6. Remind Managers of Their Responsibilities 

Be sure to emphasise again and again to your managers that they are chiefly responsible for preventing and recognising harassment and discrimination. Let them know that they will be held to a different standard as leaders.

Emphasise that they do not get to walk away free if they fail to take responsibility for sanitising the organisation of discrimination and harassment when they have the opportunity.

In addition, help them understand that the only way to position them as an authority is to forbid them the same indulgences as non-leaders, e.g. fraternising socially with employees who are notorious for having an inappropriate sense of humour.

Finally, warn your managers against eroding their credibility as leaders. 

 How to Get Them to Remember

Training for training’s sake is a mistake that some organisations make frequently. Whatever you do, do all within your power to ensure that your EEO training truly impacts your managers’ behaviour and perspectives. 

A good way to do this is to provide continuous and ongoing hands-on support to your managers. It is important that an HR person checks in regularly with managers to see what’s happening with their team members.

In addition, the EEO training enforcer should take time to ask about challenges. Ultimately, this person will serve as another set of eyes and ears that can tame issues before they become full-blown complaints or lawsuits. 

Employee surveys are also an excellent way to feel the pulse of your managers and get insight into how well they are utilising their EEO training. 

In Conclusion

Equal Employment Opportunity training shouldn’t be another do-it-yourself endeavour – too much is at stake for your organisation and employees.  

Good professional employer organisations (PEOs) offer EEO training for managers and employees. If you’d like more information about how a PEO can help your business, please contact us at Workforce Africa