University of Connecticut

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"The Law of the Hammer”: A Reconsideration of the Role of Training in Addressing Sexual Harassment

Friday, March 15, 2019
12:20pm – 1:50pm

Storrs Campus

Elissa Perry, Ph.D., Social-Organizational Psychology, Columbia University.

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail” Maslow (1966).

Sexual harassment training is the hammer often used to address sexual harassment, despite the lack of consistent evidence that it does so effectively (Roehling & Huang, 2018). A training based approach to sexual harassment is limited in several respects. I discuss these limitations and present a conceptual model that may help us think about sexual harassment interventions more broadly. I suggest that a focus on a broader climate for inclusion, and the role that leaders play in creating it, may provide a richer understanding of the conditions under which sexual harassment, as well as other forms of mistreatment, occur. Even the most well-developed and evidence-based training will have limited impact if the training is embedded in an organizational context that does not support the training, or worse, tolerates incivility and other exclusionary behaviors. I suggest how this model may help identify strategies (e.g., leadership development programs) for combating sexual harassment that complement the sexual harassment training programs that are more traditionally implemented.


I/O Psychology (primary), Psychology Department, UConn Master Calendar

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