Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg took to the platform yesterday to share her thoughts concerning recent events of sexual harassment and assault.

In a 1300-word post, Sandberg speaks about various topics, from the effects of power in the workplace to her own personal experience. But I especially appreciated her practical suggestions in how organizations can help prevent sexual harassment and assault moving forward.

Here's what she said:

Every workplace should start with clear principles, then institute policies to support them. First, develop workplace training that sets the standard for respectful behavior at work, so people understand right from the start what's expected of them. Second, treat all claims - and the people who voice them - with seriousness, urgency, and respect. Third, create an investigation process that protects employees from stigma or retaliation. Fourth, follow a process that is fairly and consistently applied in every case, both for victims and those accused. Fifth, take swift and decisive action when wrongdoing has occurred. And sixth, make it clear that all employees have a role to play in keeping workplaces safe - and that enablers and failed gatekeepers are complicit when they stay silent or look the other way.

The subject of sexual harassment can rightfully inspire strong emotions, especially if you or someone you know has suffered.

But what if you weren't the victim? Anger inspired by a situation involving sexual misconduct is valuable--because it can move you to take action against an unacceptable set of circumstances. But if allowed to run wild, those emotions can also cause major damage--if you rush to judgment before learning the facts.

But Sandberg provides a set of principles that can help organizations combat this pandemic in a balanced and practical way--while working to protect the victim. In doing so, she demonstrates emotional intelligence--the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you (or in this case, your organization). 

Here are four reasons why this framework can produce beneficial results:

1. It's clear and transparent.

Many of us would like to think that there are boundaries of common decency that everyone understands, unwritten rules that people should naturally follow--especially in the workplace.

But as the past several months have proved without a shadow of a doubt, this isn't the reality we live in.

The first step of the solution is to make sure everyone's on the same page. And the only way to do that is to write the page--then make sure it's communicated, loud and clear.

2. It empowers the victim.

One of the main things the #MeToo movement has proven is that many victims are afraid to speak up--out of fear of losing their jobs, becoming labeled or ostracized, or sharing a horrible thing that's happened to them with others.

Sandberg's second and third principles give power and protection to victims.

3. It helps prevent false accusations.

While Sandberg is right to demand that every accusation should be treated with seriousness, urgency and respect, she makes an equally important point by asking for a process that is fair and consistent to the accused.

Doing so helps ensure that accusations have merit before taking action, and aren't guided purely by sentiment. This can potentially protect the innocent from wrongful harm.

4. It guides and shapes the culture.

By spelling out consequences for bad behavior, organizations can act quickly and confidently if an employee is guilty.

Further, by making it clear "that all employees have a role to play in keeping workplaces safe," and that any who "look the other way" are expressly complicit, you provide "positive peer pressure," and make everyone responsible for upholding the standards of the company.

Of course, actions speak louder than words. Principles and processes are only effective if they're followed.

So, take some time to look at your workplace. Make sure you're doing all you can to protect your people--and build a culture you can be proud of.

Published on: Dec 4, 2017
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