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Feeling uncomfortable around your colleague or boss?

While designing Prevention of Sexual Harassment training (POSH training) sessions for your employees, keep in mind that in terms of demographics, you may have employees from different generations (Gen X, Millennial, Gen Z). Each group’s needs may be different, and may speak a different language. The strategies set out hereare based on both content and mode of training delivery.

There was a time when ‘gentlemen’ were taught specifically to behave differently when a ‘lady’ is present. While this may have seemed respectful, it still reinforced the idea that men’s behaviour when amongst themselves, however sexist, is acceptable. A major shift has been in the idea that it is not just behaviour that needs to be addressed, but the underlying thought process too. This also means the artificial barriers that may have protected folks from wrong behaviour would come down, leading to the need for clear, articulated boundaries.

Boundary Setting

I might be okay with hugs but that should not be interpreted as a free pass for over-friendly behaviour. One should always know how to tell people to stop and what the limits are in any relationship.

It is also pertinent to note that in some (arguably more progressive) workspaces, rigid hierarchies may not exist as much as they previously did. Conversations may be more casual, boundaries may be a little blurred between you and your boss or mentor. It is important to be clear about power dynamics and expectations, rather than leaving anything ambiguous. Extending a friendly after work drinks invite might be your way to get to know your junior / intern, but make sure that the other person is saying an enthusiastic yes and isn’t feeling forced to join you out of social obligation. They didn’t say no to you, but did they mean a yes? It is always good to ask rather than assume the comfort of the person in your presence at all levels of a relationship.

Intoxication may be a standard fixture at many work parties. The employees need to know how to navigate such spaces safely and while having fun. Forcing or coaxing people to drink against their wishes is a strict no. One needs to drink in their own limit, behave in their senses and avoid hitting on their colleagues while drunk. 

Ways of Communication

Ways of communication have evolved along with the evolution of the technology that enables it. People can overshare as they have many more means to do so. Emojis and gifs which show a heart or a kiss don’t really mean that the person loves you romantically or would like to be physically intimate. But also how okay is it to send kiss emoji to your colleagues? The bottom-line here is that we are all entitled to – and should commit to upholding safety and appropriateness in work conversations.

Relationships

In the era of dating culture being promoted rapidly by online apps and changing societal structures, people may be getting involved with each other in a more quick and open-minded manner. Several possible outcomes from this may affect the workplace dynamics, such as casual relationships and those where someone has dated more than one person in the same workplace. Having a relationship with a colleague requires trust and patience. Companies can have policies and processes to reduce bias, conflict of interest or other complications in the workplace.The company culture should also address head-on any prevailing issues of gossip among the workforce. If other employees show sensitivity and respect privacy, it will be the best support structure.

We should also mention that some new modes of training find enthusiastic adoption among the newer generations such as:

Gamification

Game based learning programs ensure everyone gets to participate, feel engaged and have fun while on their learning journey. These games not only test the awareness levels but also serve as sounding boards for people’s feelings and opinions.These can be played in physical sessions and virtually, live and asynchronously.

AI enabled E-learning

Programs designed to work with subjective responses, factoring in multiple variables can deliver an enriching experience for the learner. One can enter a simulation and be immersed in life-like situations, with all their complexities and come out the other side having understood a lot about the subject matter, the world and about themselves.

(Smita Shetty Kapoor, CEO, Co-Founder and subject matter expert at KelpHR)

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