Building Workplace Integrity

Power Shift Project

Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago, Freedom Forum Institute Fellow in Women’s Leadership, will lead the Workplace Integrity: Train the Trainers program.

The Freedom Forum Institute’s Power Shift Project offers one-of-a-kind training for media organizations to help them combat sexual misconduct and discrimination in the workplace. Launching in June 2018, the innovative curriculum takes a train-the-trainer approach, equipping newsroom managers and HR professionals with the skills to lead this training in their own organizations.

Here, Jill Geisler, the Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago, Freedom Forum Institute Fellow on Women’s Leadership and an international expert on newsroom management, discusses how she created the Workplace Integrity curriculum.

If you are interested in finding out more about the train-the-trainer program, please visit our webpage.

1. How was the Workplace Integrity curriculum developed?

It’s the product of both research and experience. I drew on the findings from the Power Shift Summit, EEOC data on harassment and discrimination, research on bias in decision making, contemporary writing on gender and diversity issues, and combined it all with my own experiences working with journalists and leaders who want to improve their cultures.

2. What’s the problem you are trying to address with this innovative training?

Let me answer that by providing a peek at the Facilitator’s Guide for the curriculum, where the learning objectives are laid out:

Format: The interactive program consists of three modules, designed to be taught in succession, as one complete event. Each session builds on the others.

Learning objectives: Participants who complete the workshop should be able to take away these skills from each of the modules:

  1. Critical Thinking: How to analyze common workplace exchanges related to harassment, discrimination and incivility — checking facts, providing context, identifying bias, surfacing assumptions and challenging logic.
  2. Courageous Conversations: How to better understand conflict and responses to it. How to speak proactively (introducing subjects) and reactively (responding to the words and actions of others) to ensure workplace integrity.
  3. Cultures of Respect and Trust: How to assess and improve your workplace culture.

3. How did you use your experience working on newsroom cultures to create the curriculum?

I’ve spent a great deal of time helping newsrooms who want their cultures to be more investigative, multi-platform, digital-first, audience-centric, enterprising, collaborative or breaking-news focused. To do that, I developed a very practical analytical framework for assessing a culture, and exercises for staff to use to upgrade it. I built on that foundation to apply it to the Workplace Integrity curriculum. Now, newsroom teams will address “Cultures of Respect and Trust” — with both of those terms carefully defined and translated into daily choices and behaviors. We use a format that allows staff to work together in teams, under the guidance of a skilled facilitator who knows and loves journalism and journalists, and speaks the language of the newsroom.

4. How does it address the complexity of issues around eradicating harassment and misconduct, but also creating cultures full of diversity, equality and opportunity?

The issues are complex and intertwined. Even if we magically ended sexual misconduct in workplaces tomorrow, we’d still be left with longstanding issues of inequality in pay and power — and even in respect. The curriculum aims to make these connections and discuss the intersections among gender, race and ethnicity, age, and power. It constantly challenges the participants to try to see every item we discuss from multiple perspectives, especially those different from their own. And, while it teaches people how to respond to improper workplace behavior, there’s an even bigger emphasis on how each of us, but especially leaders, has the opportunity to be proactive. “Courageous Conversations” will fail as a session if all it does is help victims push back or report wrongdoing. What it must also do is help us all find the words to propose solutions, take a stand, and embed the values of workplace integrity into our everyday communication.

5. How does this curriculum differ from the anti-harassment compliance training many organizations use now, and why do we know that kind of training isn’t effective?

The 2016 report of an EEOC task force reviewed research on traditional anti-harassment training and found scant evidence that it worked. It often made people defensive. The videos used could be corny or dated, and online versions of training could come off as a “box-checking” exercise. I know from my many years of teaching ethics and diversity that talking across differences, and raising issues of power and privilege, is hard work for humans. Framing it as compliance to company rules doesn’t set the table for candid, earnest and even painful conversations. But it is in those that we find the human insights that inform our minds and hearts. Whenever I’ve had success in helping organizations improve their cultures, it’s been through setting the table for conversations people wouldn’t otherwise have, and helping them see the world through others’ eyes in an open-minded atmosphere of trust. That’s the goal of the Workplace Integrity curriculum.

6. The curriculum includes some really thought-provoking case studies. How did you create those?

One of the most popular sessions I teach in leadership workshops is “Difficult Conversations.” I traditionally have the workshop participants share scenarios from their own experiences, and then I coach them on how to handle them. I’ve heard so many great case studies, and coached so many conversations, that I drew from that experience. The cases are nuanced and real. I intentionally crafted them in second-person voice. “You” are facing various proactive and reactive scenarios: proposing a change in intern onboarding, reacting to a powerful, talented and mercurial co-worker, responding to unwelcome physical contact, stepping in when a person is being harassed, and coaching a coworker who brings a concern to you. When “you” consider your options, we also ask “you” to consider how the case might play out differently for a variety of other “you’s” — who differ from you in multiple ways.

7. How do you hope people will behave differently after they immerse themselves in this training? How will that contribute to better, more respectful and equitable workplaces?

Harvard’s John Kotter has written that people don’t “Analyze, think, and change.” Instead, they “See, feel and change.” I think this curriculum has the potential to help people see the world through the eyes of others and feel how everyday actions, big and small, can have a profound impact for better or worse. But best of all, they get to create their own roadmap, not be handed one with every route pre-determined for them. After all, journalists love nothing more than ideas and solutions of our own creation. So, they’ll have the chance to do that in the Workplace Integrity modules. I’m confident it can work.

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