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Coaching a Senior Manager where a Complaint of Harassment has been brought

The Need

We were approached by the Chief Exec of an engineering company, when one of his long serving senior managers was accused of sexual harassment, in the form of touching, which had made the recipient feel uncomfortable. The Chief Exec was at pains to highlight that the Senior Manager’s work was of a high standard in all areas, but he felt that the incidents, which had led to a complaint were borne of naivety, rather than a conscious act. Consequently he was keen to give the Manager some support to raise his awareness around his responsibilities as a Senior Manager and particularly to identify what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour at work.

The key areas we needed to address were ensuring the Manager had increased understanding of “Appropriate Workplace behaviour” in terms of relationships with colleagues and in particular around issues of physical contact and that he was clear about his responsibilities as a Senior Manager.

The Solution

We worked with the Manager over a series of coaching sessions, designed to help him understand why concerns had been raised and help him identify the boundaries of behaviour needed in a work setting.

The sessions looked particularly at what is appropriate physical behaviour, focusing on body language and how some people are naturally more tactile than others. The coaching also helped him to look at his personal style and the impact that it had on team members. From exploring this, he was then able to identify where he could make adjustments to bring out the best in each of his team.

Each session ended with clear actions for the Manager to work on, which he then had a chance to review in subsequent sessions. This helped him to get a real sense of how the changes made a tangible difference and helped him to ensure these changes part of his management style.

The coaching sessions revealed that, far from a deliberate act, the Manager’s behaviour, which had caused the complaint, had been well intentioned, but that he had misjudged the situation, which is so often what happens.

As a result of the sessions he felt confident in how to adapt his behaviour and create the right distance with his employees, while still remaining open and approachable as a Manager.