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Survey of Online Comments Demonstrates Problems with Online Sexual Harassment Training

Survey of Online Comments Demonstrates Problems with Online Sexual Harassment Training

Does your training program focus on empathy?

At Syntrio, we strive to improve the user experience for employees who are members of organizations utilizing online training to facilitate their compliance and/or cultural improvement programs. Part of that effort involves surveying social media platforms to analyze user comments and concerns about various forms of online training to help improve our courseware and provide learners a better takeaway than what they may currently be required to use.

While such surveys are wholly unscientific, and are often impacted by an overall user bias against online training programs, it is important for providers and employers to know what people are saying, so they can evaluate and improve the learning experience for everyone involved. When employers care enough to make changes, employees are going to take more away from required training courses.

Key Takeaways

  • Employers must utilize the onboarding experience (and subsequent employee engagement opportunities) to stress the correct message to be received from online harassment training.
  • It is critical to elicit feedback from employees to identify how and why current forms of education are not working.
  • Employees in a remote environment must not feel isolated, and must learn that they too can and often are targets of harassment.
  • Training must emphasize the physical and mental health risks to victims, and the negative impact offensive behavior has on workplace culture.

Employers Play a Key Role in Getting the Right Message Across

Employers and employees need to understand that training is a part of work life, and incidents of harassment, discrimination, incivility, disrespect and bullying are rampant across the workforce. When employers take steps to curb those incidents, they are providing a benefit to the mental and physical safety of their employees. Unfortunately, a stigma has arisen in the wake of various laws being enacted making such education mandatory, and this is a bias that employers in those states with mandatory training laws are going to fight.

The following are a sample of negative comments that emphasize the work we are doing to alter these perceptions among the workforce at large, along with strategies for employers to aid employee engagement in training and work toward a shared goal of improving workplace cultures and eliminating toxic work environments.

Employees Express Apathy Towards “State Mandated” Training

On March 14, 2024, X user @Gorillazoey1012 posted “State of New York requiring sexual harassment training before starting a job is insane . . .”

The quoted X post is emblematic of many employees’ perceptions that employers are only providing sexual harassment education because they “have to” or because the State requires it. The onus is on the employer to shift this perception among its new and existing employees.

When an employer utilizes its onboarding process to make clear to all employees the importance of culture, and the detrimental impact offensive behavior has, employees are proven to be more receptive to training. Likewise, when the employer stresses in advance that education provided is essential to the maintenance of the healthy workplace culture the organization has worked so hard to build, training is far more likely to start a positive conversation that can have lasting impact.

Users Look for Ways to Avoid Taking Training (and Offend Others in the Process)

On March 19, 2024, X user @_GuidoSupreme posted “[h]aving one of the analysts complete my mandated sexual harassment training. Assigning it to one of the female analysts so she learns not to tempt me.

The problem with the quoted post is twofold. First, presuming the user is in a state where compliance with a training requirement is mandated by law, the user’s recklessness risks a compliance audit failure on behalf of their employer. The user’s second statement makes clear the need for sexual harassment training when the user claims to pass the task onto a female analyst who the user claims is “tempting” them.

Employers need to routinely survey and interview users of sexual harassment training courses to find and determine efforts at avoiding compliance. Such interviews and surveys can reveal potential issues like the ones highlighted above. If it has been some time since you have taken a non-scientific survey of how your harassment training is being received, now may be the time to do so.

Users Only Concerned with Completing the Courses (as Opposed to Learning)

On March 14, 2024, X user @fancypantsberni posted “[s]peed running the mandatory sexual harassment training course.”

A common report from users of e-learning software is their attempt to multi-task and/or complete the training in as little time as possible. This is a real concern, given someone doing other things during training has no ability to comprehend the material. On the provider end, developing more engaging content that provides take-home skills (things the user wants to learn) solves this problem. On the employer end, when training is assigned during a portion of the work day where it is expected that other work will be completed, the employer has set up the employee to be turned off to the material. That is a message that cannot be sent, and the employer’s vision for dedicated learning time that is paid and away from other work must be expressed for employees to pay attention to the material and buy-into the message that training is important.

Remote Employees Feel Training is not Applicable

On March 13, 2024, X user @honeeycrisp posted “Sexual Harassment Training when you remote work is funny. Am I gonna harass myself??? Possibly.”

Since many organizations have remained in a remote work or hybrid model for more than four years, employees mistakenly believe that incidents of harassment cannot occur. This cannot be a greater misconception. In fact, incidents of harassment among virtual meetings and in remote situations have actually increased, as it has been found that people are less likely to be inhibited from offensive comments and physical displays of inappropriate behavior from working from home (or at least outside the physical presence of a colleague).

When training courses are so out of date that they do not even mention the incidence of harassment in remote work environments, it is a huge red flag, and sign that your organization needs to review its provider. Employees must be given the opportunity to understand that harassment occurs in all work environments, and routinely occurs away from the office.

Employees Feel Harassment Training Teaches them How to Engage in Illegal Behavior

On March 21, 2024, X user @_pingisland posted “[a]ll this sexual harassment training course is doing is teaching me new ways to sexually harass my coworkers.”

This type of post is a common response from individuals who learn I work in the prevention of sexual harassment. Some form of this intended trivial “joke” is a sentiment shared by many who have taken a sexual harassment course. Ironically, when users learn about harassment they think it is teaching them new ways to be suggestive or offend others in their work environment, and that is clearly not what the material is intended to be about.

Harassment training courses need to stress the psychological and physical damage that is caused when individuals are subjected to workplace harassment. Only when users are able to put themselves in the shoes of the victim, (and connect with the situation), are they able to get past these sort of biases and misconceptions. Unfortunately, all too often employers are choosing e-learning courses that don’t push the envelope or are too conservative in their approach. For this reason, we challenge you to evaluate courses that you may find “offensive” to determine if being overly conservative will only lead users to dismiss the message for something it is not.


The posts discussed in this article were selected at random and represent a contemporary cross-section of things we have heard or witness in nearly 20 years of working with employers on preventing workplace harassment. We illustrate them to not only demonstrate that we as a provider of online sexual harassment training strive to break down misconceptions and fight biases, but also to demonstrate to employers that there is a very negative sentiment toward training that we must work together on to defeat. The risks of failing to do so are simply too high.

Contact a member of our staff today to learn more about how Syntrio can partner with you on these important topics.

Syntrio welcomes the opportunity to partner with your organization on creating a program for the prevention of sexual harassment at work. As an industry leader in online sexual harassment courseware, we have decades of experience at making a difference in this important area. We pride ourselves on breaking from the norm in corporate education. Please contact a member of our staff today to learn how Syntrio can help make a difference in your workplace culture, and find out why we are a provider that breaks the negative stereotypes about online training.

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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