New surveys from the APA and VitalSmarts question the organizational effect thus far of the nationwide reckoning on sexual misconduct
Employees since last fall have said #MeToo — but a majority of their workplaces don’t appear to have listened.
Just under one-third (32%) of American workers said their employers had taken new actions to address and prevent workplace sexual harassment after 2017’s national reckoning on sexual misconduct began, according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association conducted Feb. 15 to March 1.
Nearly one in five (18%) said their employer had merely reminded employees of existing resources or training. Ten percent said their employer had added sexual harassment-related resources or training, while 8% said their employer had actually implemented a more stringent policy. Seven percent reported an employer-hosted town hall or all-staff meeting about sexual harassment.
Acting on the issue seemed to yield positive results. In companies that made new efforts to address sexual harassment versus those that didn’t, workers reported being far more likely to report sexual harassment they experienced or witnessed; they were also more likely to confront a colleague engaging in such behavior. And employees at companies that made new efforts were more likely to report good psychological health and greater job satisfaction and motivation.
Workers at companies boasting equal representation of women in senior leadership roles, meanwhile, were nearly twice as likely as those without equal representation (41% compared to 22%) to report their employer taking new action to address and prevent workplace sexual harassment, per the poll of 1,512 working U.S. adults.
“The #MeToo movement has given business leaders an opportunity to finally take real action addressing a complex problem that has been pervasive for generations,” David Ballard, director of the APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, said in a statement.
“Our survey — as well as anecdotal reports — shows that too few employers are making comprehensive efforts that can have significant impact. Avoiding the issue is bad for employee well-being and business, but so, too, is a narrow, compliance-based approach,” he added. “We know from psychological science that relying solely on mandated training designed primarily to limit the organization’s legal liability is unlikely to be effective.”
The news wasn’t all bleak: At least half (51%) said they were now more likely to report workplace sexual harassment they witnessed, while 29% said they were now more likely to leave their employer should it not take action on the sexual harassment front.
But a similarly gloomy online survey from the leadership training company VitalSmarts revealed that just 34% of the more than 1,100 respondents were willing to address unwanted conduct when they saw or experienced it — and respondents indicated the movement hadn’t much impacted whether people were more mindful of avoiding behaviors that could be viewed as sexual misconduct.
While 28% of respondents said they’d shared a personal experience with sexual misconduct post-#MeToo, nearly half (48%) indicated they had harassment experiences they had not yet shared.
As for factors that could yield the biggest effect on conduct, 45% agreed with having a precedent or plan for what to do if they’re the subject or witness of sexual harassment; 22% agreed with confidence in the system responding appropriately to harassment complaints; and 20% agreed with additional workplace training.
“It’s clear, #MeToo is generally supported and has created positive momentum in (victims’) willingness to speak up,” Emily Gregory, VP of product development at VitalSmarts, said in a statement. “However, without action or support from corporate America, #MeToo has had little impact on actual behavior in the workplace. To turn #MeToo from a moment into a movement, this needs to change and change quickly.”
This article was originally published May 15, 2018, and has been updated with new information.
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved