Why Harassment Training Isn’t Enough

Why Harassment Training Isn’t Enough

Sadly, faith-based organizations are not immune to workplace issues such as harassment or other misconduct. A 2020 study conducted by Church Law & Tax revealed that 1 in 6 employees / volunteers in the Christian workplace has been sexually harassed.

Cutting quick to the heart of the issue, the editors at Church Law & Tax help shed light on the root cause of harassment: “…at a basic, fundamental level, sexual harassment strikes at the very heart of the gospel, attempting to rob the dignity of a person made in the image of God.” Being good stewards of our people goes beyond simply ensuring compliance and the elements around it. It requires deliberate and intentional structure and development of workplace culture. Your organization must be a place where everyone can be confident in the treatment and respect of the image bearers of God.

So while we are passionate about helping churches stay compliant in their HR practices, we can’t overemphasize and more loudly champion the importance of a healthy workplace culture. We often see a lack of compliance and culture intersect painfully in cases of harassment and we know the only way to truly stop harassment before it starts is through both education and creating a culture of value and communication.

Two Pieces of the Puzzle

Harassment prevention training is where most organizations start. It is helpful and necessary to create awareness and educate those that might otherwise not be able to identify harassment or respond in the best way. While critical, it is not, however, the only piece of the puzzle.

That same Church Law & Tax study found that 42% of those harassed individuals had no intention of reporting the incident. When so many have experienced sexual harassment in their Christian workplace and so few intend to report it, it begs the question, “Why?” We think the strongest contender for “why” is also the second piece: the culture in which the individual worked.

Work environments (religious or not) do not always encourage healthy transparency, open and honest conversations, respectful constructive criticism, or confidence that bringing forth concerns will be met by leadership with a willingness to listen and/or appropriately act. It is not at all surprising many cases of sexual harassment go unreported, which only adds to a toxic culture.

Stop the Cycle with Communication

A healthy culture supports open and frequent dialogue, promotes respect and dignity for those around us, and brings to light areas in need of improvement. The same intrinsic cultural features that encourage this confidence in reporting can work toward helping prevent harassment in the first place.

Regular, intentional communication is key to developing workplace culture and being good stewards of people. Rather than simply reacting when issues arise, we strongly recommend supervisors establish the practice of routine and consistent one-on-one check-ins with all staff in addition to regular performance reviews. Employees want to know that they are seen and heard in the best of times, not only when there is a problem. Modeling healthy workplace interactions starts from the top and is imperative to creating a culture focused on respecting people and serving those around us.

Here’s How We Can Help

Our desire to help equip organizations and individuals is one of the driving factors behind our Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Courses. Even if training is not mandated in your location, we highly recommend the completion of harassment prevention training every two years as a best practice. Sign your staff up today for our online, self-paced, ministry-specific courses. We handle all the administration, down to sending you their completion certificates–just be sure to file them in each employee’s file!

Original content by HR Ministry Solutions. This information is provided with the understanding that Payroll Partners is not rendering legal, human resources, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from a lawyer, HR consultant or other professional.