My secular workplace has detailed policies on how to address sexual harassment when it happens, but as a manager, I’d rather stop it before it begins. Do you have any advice on how I might do that?
It is good to know that your company has solid policies in place so that women and men can work without fear, and can be heard and find justice if problems arise. Thank you for wanting to go beyond policies and procedures and create an optimal environment for your colleagues.
God has placed you in a position of influence and fruitful service (Matt. 5:14–16; John 15:1–10; Phil. 2:14–16; Col. 3:17). I trust the Holy Spirit will use your humility and strategic gifts for God’s glory and the good of all around you.
There are two internal dispositions and three practical principles that will help foster shalom in your workplace.
The first disposition comes from Genesis 1:26–28: the creation mandate for humankind. Note the order in this passage:
- Every person is made in the image of God;
- Every person has a job to do as part of the call for humankind to steward God’s creation; and
- We carry out our callings as women or men.
This order is important in creating an equitable and harmonious work environment, where everyone is fulfilled and safe. You are affirming dignity and equality, the goodness of work, and that people carry out their tasks as men and women. It is vital that respect is offered equally to both sexes without imposing sinful, subcultural caricatures.
The second disposition is a companion to this biblical anthropology. Simply stated, work to create language and systems that are inclusive and aim for as much diversity and inclusion as possible in the employees and teams you lead.
With these dispositions, three practical insights can help foster peace and perhaps prevent problems (even with the noblest intentions and rules, mistakes will come).
First, in your regular meetings and periodic trainings, create a culture of openness so people feel free to go to colleagues with words of correction and wisdom before situations escalate. Sometimes people act out of ignorance and make others uncomfortable. Encourage folks to say, “Hey, Bill, your last joke was unwise.” Or “Joan, you are a friendly, demonstrative person, but John needs more personal space.” Hopefully most issues are resolved this way.
Train in Relational Intelligence
The second insight involves continual cross-cultural, emotional, and relational-intelligence training. This is more than mandatory sexual harassment work (which is really important). Sometimes employees can feel this training is a waste of time—and sometimes it can be—so you’ll need to be wise in choosing curriculum that is practical, God-honoring, and helpful. You’ll also want to lead by example in taking the training seriously.
Cultivating mutual appreciation and increasing sensitivities can only help. Turn potential problems into personal growth. You can help all your colleagues appreciate diverse perspectives and how they help the mission.
Third, work with your human-resources department and the executives of the company to continually refine and promote the highest virtues that are essential to the company. Help strengthen the connections between unselfishness and teamwork, mutual respect and productivity, diversity and successful results.
May the Lord grant you courage and wisdom, rooted in love, as you serve in your frontline assignment for advancing God’s mission in our world.