Our acceptance of the abuse of one human being against another, and the deafness of institutions to being challenged when it occurs, has at last changed. The high profile Hollywood cases which broke in 2017 and the Me Too movement that resulted have had a profound and rapid impact on social attitudes.
People who have suffered harassment and abuse are increasingly coming forward to tell their stories. Those who have not suffered have become much more aware of the scale and impact of abuse, and are ever more intolerant of abusive behaviour.
Within the sector there have been various high profile historical cases raised in the media. The expectations now are that organisations will root out and prevent such abuse. This raises substantial challenges for organisations in building their policies, processes, culture and assurance needed for the future.
The first challenge is to know the size of the problem with your organisation.
Shining a spotlight
At Agenda, two clients have asked us to work with them to design surveys which ask staff for their experience of harassment and abuse. They told us that they see the advantages of the survey approach as:
- Providing a safe space for staff to be able to give honest feedback
- Gathering evidence in a structured way
- Helping the organisation to see what is really happening more clearly
- Ensuring that strategies are rooted in the real experience of staff
The first survey we ran achieved a 47% response rate which the client was pleased about. A key point was emphasising to staff that the survey was completely confidential.
We see great value in establishing a core set of questions for surveys in this area. This will enable us to help organisations benchmark against other organisations, and thus reach a deeper understanding of their own position and priorities and with a realistic sense of what is achievable in an extremely difficult area of organisational behaviour.
We have made a start on a core set of questions which include:
- Asking staff whether they have had direct experience and/or have witnessed abuse
- If so, the seniority of the perpetrator, the basis of the harassment (e.g. gender, race etc.) and type of abuse
- Whether the incident was reported and if so, to whom?
- If reported, whether retaliation was experienced and levels of satisfaction with the outcome
- If not reported, the reasons for non-reporting
- Asking all staff how clear they are on what behaviour is expected, the extent to which they believe that they would feel safe reporting a case, and whether they are clear about the reporting process and know who to contact
- Demographic questions to be able to explore the pattern of response across the organisation and understand any hot spots.
Contribute your thoughts
We would very much like to hear your thoughts and experiences of surveys in this area. Email or call Roger Parry on +44 1865 263720, and in return we will share the current version of our core questions.