The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

3 Activities to Engage Participants Through In-Person Sexual Harassment Training

Feeling safe and comfortable at work and around coworkers makes it easier to enjoy the work you do, yet there are instances where inappropriate jokes or the invasion of personal space are still present in the workplace. One way to prevent these situations from arising is to deliver in-person sexual harassment training. This type of training allows for deeper exploration of complex issues, enhances conversations, increases comfort of reporting and is a proactive approach to facing inappropriate behavior.

In a recent CUPA-HR webinar (available now for on-demand viewing), Rythee Jones, associate vice president of human resources at Washington Adventist University, and Estevanny Turns, associate vice president for human resources and Title IX coordinator at Maryland Institute College of Art, presented three ways to engage participants and promote thoughtful discussions through in-person training efforts.

Activity #1: Create an Atmosphere That Enhances Discussions
Imagine sitting around a table at your favorite coffee shop with a friend. The conversation flows naturally because the setting is relaxed and casual. This is the idea behind the World Café. Individuals are more likely to share their thoughts, insights and knowledge when they feel comfortable, like they are sitting at a table in their favorite coffee shop.

To create a World Café in the training environment, divide participants into small groups and have them gather around work stations. Jones suggests placing markers and butcher paper at each station for groups to write down their thoughts and share the many ways sexual harassment can be present in the workplace. Once everyone in the group has had a chance to contribute, have groups rotate stations and observe what other groups wrote down.

The objective of this activity is for participants to understand what sexual harassment looks like from different perspectives. See the World Café guidelines below to learn how to incorporate this exercise into training.

Activity #2: Form a Human Continuum
There isn’t just one form of sexual harassment, and it’s important for participants to be aware of the many types in the workplace. This activity helps participants identify different types of sexual harassment and determine their severity so that appropriate steps can be taken address the issue.

  • Divide participants into small groups and form a line against the wall.
  • Each person will pick a scenario out of an envelope.
  • Participants will read the scenario and decide where it falls on the continuum and then negotiate with other participants in line to determine where each scenario falls.
  • Participants will change places in line based on the increasing severity of the behaviors identified in each scenario.

Activity #3: Use the Situation-Behavior-Impact Technique
Although the purpose of sexual harassment training is to prevent inappropriate behaviors at work, it won’t eliminate them entirely. If an individual is experiencing sexual harassment and wishes to confront the offender, it can help to provide them with a script that will get their message across.

To simulate this, have employees divide into groups of three — one person confronting the behavior, one person responsible for the behavior, and one observer who will take notes. Tell the group to think of a sexual harassment scenario pertinent to their workplace and have the person confronting the behavior follow these steps:

Step 1: Describe what happened.
Step 2: Describe the behavior that took place.
Step 3: Describe the impact/effect it had on you.
Step 4: Describe what you want the person to change.
Step 5: State the consequences if the behavior doesn’t change.

When everyone in the group has had a chance to play each role, discuss one specific thing that was said that made it clear the behavior was unwelcome, and give suggestions on how to make the interaction even more effective.

Incorporating these interactive activities into your institution’s sexual harassment training will help participants identify inappropriate behaviors and help prevent them from happening in the future.


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