Sexual Harassment: Whack the first one, word will spread

This is not rocket science. You really want harassment to stop? Take a note…

Consequences. That’s how.

Consequences, not “understanding,” especially for starter transgressions. Go ugly early. Consequences earlier mean fewer instances later. Human behavior 101.

For non-leaders, that means immediate discipline for any credible claim. Discipline, not coaching, training, “performance improvement plan,” or any other tired euphemism for doing nothing.

For #leadership, and I include powerful referent leaders here as well, that means zero tolerance. And zero means “zero.” First credible event, whack ’em. No exceptions.

We’ve had a murky problem finally brought into specific relief. Want to train employees? Fine, train away if it makes you feel better. May be some CYA for the organization, but don’t kid yourself; training only works when the problem is lack of knowledge.

We may, in fact, need some training around effective investigations, discerning credible claims, and how not to shoot anyone prematurely. But few adults really need training on how not to sexually harass, and none need training on how not to sexually assault. If they are doing either today, it’s likely not due to a lack of training.

There are just three reasons why employees don’t do what they should:

  1. They don’t know how,
  2. They don’t want to, or
  3. We won’t let them.

The first is the easiest to fix, and seldom the root cause. The latter two are leadership issues, and imminently fixable, given appropriate motivation.

Let’s not hold up short-term gains while we try to change all of society. Stopping sexual harassment in the workplace simply takes a commitment and intestinal wherewithal.

Let’s simply act.

Starting with immediate consequences.


My best friend and partner in crime, Kevin Ross, has a t-shirt that he used to wear around his daughters’ suitors; “Shoot the first one, word will spread.” As a father to two daughters, I can attest to the testament.

We can make that apply to sexual harassment as well. Without the t-shirt.

Be Brazen.

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