Post-Weinstein—the impact of sexual harassment on small business

What will happen to small businesses in America “post Weinstein?”

Will small businesses become stronger? Will they be the first choice of consumers who wish to avoid big business where terrible behavior and sexual harassment are simply settled with big payouts? Or will the “Weinstein effect” (as I have seen it called), trickle down to small business and be much more detrimental?

I worry about small businesses with no good policies in place and no protocols to deal with the current workplace climate. Small business should not think themselves immune to corporate scandals. All it will take is one tweet or Facebook rant to ruin a company’s reputation and deplete financial reserves. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that in the financial year 2008, the agency received sexual harassment charges totaling to 13,867. Plaintiffs recovered up to $47.4 million of monetary claims. The Globe and Mail reported in June 2017, “awards of general damages have typically ranged from $12,000 to $50,000.” I’m sure these numbers will skyrocket in 2018.

Beyond monetary risk is reputation risk for a company. Whether an accusation is found to be true or continues to litigation is irrelevant. The damage will be done. Clients will choose other providers. Vendors will end contracts. Customers will go elsewhere. Employees will find other jobs. Small and mid-size business may not be able to weather a sexual harassment storm.

What can small businesses do now to prevent reputation risk?

  1. Accept that accusations will occur. It does not matter how long you have known your employees or how much you trust them.
  2. Open conversations and be proactive rather than reactive.
  3. Create clear policies and protocols for reporting. Include your employees’ input in the protocols created. Have policies reviewed by a business attorney.
  4.  Staff should be trained to recognize nonverbal signals of discomfort and to avoid nonverbal behavior which could be taken the wrong way. The root of toxic work environments is the power constructs which exist between managers and reports. Poor subconscious behavior enhances power differentials. Strained relationships turn from bad to worse. Share this video with employees.
  5. Every new hire changes the dynamic and culture of small businesses. Review the policy often. Make certain new employees have a clear understanding.
  6. Check in regularly with employees regarding their comfort in the workplace. Take notice if the culture seems to shift unexpectedly. Do not ignore a sudden employee behavior change.

Training to prevent sexual harassment does not have to break the bank. It is an investment which could save a business.

Moving Image Consulting will work with you to provide nonverbal behavior training which works for your business.