Update: Culture Change

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Government Commissioner for sexual misconduct and sexual violence
New guidance against sexual misconduct focuses on cultural change in the workplace

Government commissioner for sexual misconduct and sexual violence Mariëtte Hamer is releasing a new edition of the guide for organizations on sexual misconduct in the workplace. This follows a prototype that appeared last year. The most important change in this new edition is a broadening of the approach: from properly dealing with reports of sexual misconduct to a strategy for prevention and cultural change within your organization. Hamer: “My motto ‘doing nothing is not an option’ still applies, and I now add: make the subject visible and open to discussion. Ultimately, it is about the will to work together towards an equal, respectful, pleasant and safe culture in which sexual misconduct no longer occurs. I would like to activate that positive motivation.”

Hamer has been working in recent months on testing, fine-tuning and expanding the prototype that she published in May 2023. She has included the insights of experts, experienced experts and more than 20 large and small companies from various sectors.

Three pillars

In the new first part, Hamer offers insight into how organizations can work on the culture of interaction and the organizational structure. Organizations are also included in how they can organize the support system. These three pillars of the approach to sexual misconduct, together determine the creation of a socially safe culture within the organization. Hamer: “Cultural change in the workplace is a circular process that starts and ends with how you interact with each other, but in which the structure of the organization and the support system are crucial parts. The guide provides guidance for organizing this process of prevention and approach together and embedding it in daily business. Because that is unfortunately also sexual misconduct: part of everyday life.” Hamer also wants measures in the organization, such as the confidential counselor and the reporting procedure, to apply to everyone in the organization, regardless of their contract form, including temporary workers and self-employed persons.

Risk analysis and the organization-wide conversation

Hamer emphasizes the importance of a risk analysis to find out what makes an organization vulnerable to sexual misconduct. Hamer: “You should view a risk analysis as a photo of the organization. You identify the risk factors for sexually transgressive behavior, for example in the organizational structure, such as unequal power relations, a high degree of dependency, high work pressure or the physical nature of the work. Or in the culture of interaction – think of ingrained behavioral patterns between managers and employees or men and women. And the support system, such as the accessibility of expert confidants, a well-supported code of conduct and the knowledge and skills of managers. After the analysis, you can make an action plan to record the measures you will take. Part of this always includes an organization-wide conversation, the aim of which is to ensure that everyone within the organization feels seen and heard. A conversation that results in agreements about mutual behavior that lead to a clear social norm.”

Increase in notifications

Initiating a cultural change can initially lead to an increase in reports, but this can also be a sign of positive cultural change, because people dare to speak out more, says Hamer: “It often turns out in practice that if you talk to each other, issues arise about undesirable behavior and its impact. That’s a win, because if there is room to discuss it with each other, you can stop it at an early stage. It then becomes easier to talk to someone else about it.”

New instrument

Hamer acknowledges that the size of the guide, which now has more than 100 pages, can certainly deter small organizations from getting started. That is why she and her team are continuing to work on a practical instrument that every organization can use to get started with prevention and tackling sexual misconduct in an accessible way.


Guidelines for cultural change in the workplacePublication | 03-13-2024

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