The tech giant’s on-set rules for avoiding harassment went viral after they were leaked. But it’s a fine line between sensible advice and being over-zealous.

Netflix recently made headlines after an on-set runner described its new workplace behavioural policy:

  • Don’t look any anyone for longer than five seconds
  • Shout “Stop, don’t do that again!” if a colleague has been inappropriate
  • Don’t give lingering hugs or touch anyone for a lengthy period of time
  • Don’t flirt
  • Don’t ask out a colleague more than once if they have said no
  • Steer clear of a colleague one they have said they are not interested in you
  • Don’t ask for a colleague’s phone number
  • Report a colleague who has given anyone unwanted attention

An online survey from People Management carried out in August found almost 75% of respondents had not altered any policies relating to sexual harassment in the previous six months. More than half (58%) said their workplace culture had not improved as a result of the increased scrutiny on sexual harassment-related issues – suggesting relatively few organisations are taking practical actions.

One of the biggest challenges for individuals is actually being willing or able to report offensive or potentially illegal behaviours. Under-reporting of harassment is rife, with research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in March finding roughly half of more than 700 people who had experience sexual harassment at work failed to report it.

That reluctance – experienced by both women and men – is attributed to a lack of appropriate procedure, uncertainty over who to approach and little confidence in complaints being taken seriously. There is no easy answer, but the confidentially and responsiveness allowed by technology is emerging as a key tool. And the universities sector, which faces complex power dynamics that have placed it in the forefront of #MeToo, is leading the way.

People Management magazine – September 2018 (Emily Burt)