Bystander & Harassment Prevention Training are a package deal

by Aug 13, 2019

It’s been over six months since California tasked all organizations with five or more employees to provide Harassment Prevention Training to it’s seasonal, temporary, part-time and full-time employees. 

As providers of this training, we have designed a compliant program that goes beyond what the law requires. Not only do we touch on everything required by law, we dive deep into the power of company culture, inclusivity, and how a positive work environment is your best defense against harassment. Frankly, this is something that most Harassment Prevention Trainings are sorely lacking. 

But, we aren’t perfect either (I know it’s hard to believe).

It’s impossible to give employees everything they need to actively engage in creating a work environment free from negative behaviors like harassment, bullying, and discrimination in a two hour training. It can’t be done if you’re going to hit the wickets required by law.

What’s missing is a focus on bystanders’ – or as we like to call them, reinforcers’ – role in harassment prevention. (We think reinforcers is a better word, because people who know bad behavior is happening but don’t speak up against it are reinforcing the behavior. Their silence gives the bad actor permission.)

Even the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states, “To help prevent conduct from rising to the level of unlawful workplace harassment, employers also may find it helpful to consider and implement new forms of training, such as workplace civility or respectful workplace training and/or bystander intervention training.”

We agree with the EEOC, which is why we have developed a Bystander Training to complement our CA Compliant Harassment Prevention Training. They go hand in hand. One teaches employees about what constitutes inappropriate behavior while the other provides employees with useful tools for standing up for themselves, and each other, when experiencing behaviors not conducive to a positive work environment. And we don’t keep our training focused on harassment, as there is a spectrum of negative behaviors that can taint your workplace and your workforce. 

Did you know, for example, that if you remove the part about protected characteristics in the harassment prevention definition you are describing workplace bullying? Check it out and see if you agree:

Harassment is unwelcome conduct…  where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Sounds like workplace bullying, doesn’t it? All we did was remove this part: “based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

Bystander Training arms employees with both the confidence and skill to have difficult conversations, communicate zero tolerance, and ultimately squash out negative behavior entirely.

When paired with effective Harassment Prevention Training, it can create a recipe for productive, respectful working relationships between employees, and thus, business success. It is vital to ensuring your employees can make a positive difference in your organization. 

I also suggest checking out a semi-recent blog we wrote about the timing of harassment prevention training. Consider that when you deliver it sends a message about how important it is.


Do you know how much money chronically bad behavior costs your company? Spoiler alert – it’s a LOT higher than you want it to be. Download our data and worksheet to see how it’s costing your organization and what you can do to fix it.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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