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Moving Outside the Box: Toward a Culture of Workplace Respect & Civility

Moving Outside the Box: Toward a Culture of Workplace Respect & Civility

Business leaders have spent the better part of the last three years assessing their compliance needs in response to increased legislation requiring sexual harassment training. Some (or all) employees in at least eight states and two territories require training as of August 2020, and another nine states that have officially recommended harassment training. While providers have responded to the need for increased training in this area, Syntrio and its customers have learned a great deal about what truly makes corporate education work. Gone are the days where employers must only be concerned with “checking the box” regarding training, as employees now expect and appreciate a drive toward not just the prevention of harassment, but an overall improvement in workplace culture, civility, and respect.


Understanding the needs of the modern workforce, Syntrio has taken great strides to develop a suite of courses that meet the goals of employers looking not just to meet their compliance needs, but to attain the improvement in workplace culture that will allow them not just to comply with the law in their jurisdiction, but to actually prevent incidents of harassment and discrimination from occuring. According to a New York Times article, even at the beginning of the #MeToo era, in 2017, employees have become cynical to the idea of mandatory harassment training, and often complain about things like uncomfortability, the reinforcement of gender stereotypes, and the possibility that basic training can actually make the problem worse. Criticisms like these have not subsided in the last three years, and corporate responses to current events have only increased cynicism regarding the true motivation behind simple “PowerPoint” style training.


In the past two years Sytrio has continued development on a suite of courses aimed at improving workplace culture, civility, respect and bystander intervention. These courses are intended to be taken in conjunction with Syntrio’s industry-leading sexual harassment prevention courseware, and teach employees how to spot potentially dangerous situations. Perhaps more importantly, our respectful workplace suite teaches employees how to combat problems safely and without fear of retaliation. Users can think of the “respect” series as continuing education on how to prevent incidents of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.


Syntrio’s courses all contain the hallmark interactivity and narrative-driven storytelling that has made Syntrio’s harassment courseware a model for the industry. As the EEOC Task Force Study of Harassment in the Workplace stated prior to the expansion of required harassment training in the United States, “[training] is important, but it has to be the right kind of training.”  Further, that same study also found “employers should consider workplace civility training and bystander intervention training.”  The events of the past  four  years have only validated the need for not just sexual harassment prevention training, but an overall re-emphasis on how employees communicate with one another and identify and report potentially offensive and/or hostile behavior at work.


At Syntrio, we feel that people are better prepared to confront uncomfortable situations when they are aware of what respectful behavior looks like, and how to communicate with a potential bad actor (and upper management) when a situation arises. When employees have training on respect, bystander intervention, and other forms of sensitivity and civility, we have found they are simply better prepared to understand how their biases and microaggressions can have a negative impact on the workplace as a whole. We also believe that employees respond better to mandatory harassment training when they have a more positive outlook on the motivation for it and can view the positive in speaking up about their behavior (rather than the potential consequences).


Sexual harassment prevention training is here to stay. Given that nearly half of the states in the country either require workplace training or strongly recommend it, there is a clear need to budget and plan for annual or bi-annual training on the topic. But Syntrio believes the EEOC and others are correct when they argue it is not enough to do what is mandatory or recommended, rather the rewards of making effort to improve your workplace culture (in addition to harassment training) are what will pay dividends via a reduction in complaints, incidents and more positive working environment for your employees. Syntrio invites you to contact us today to discuss the wide variety of training programs we have available to meet your time and budget needs.



  1. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New York, and Washington all have laws requiring the training of some or all employees on the prevention of sexual harassment.
  2. Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands have sexual harassment training requirements.
  3. Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin have officially recommended (by Executive Order, administrative opinion or statute) that employers train their workforce on the prevention of sexual harassment.

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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