Positive on Purpose : Respectful Workplaces with the EEOC

At the heart of the EEOC’s Respectful Workplace training is this assumption: that respect is the foundation of everything that happens in a well-functioning workplace. “It turns out,” says Erika-Mocha Suell, EEOC Outreach Program Coordinator and the featured speaker at our Summer Ethics Luncheon last week, “that respect does not happen because someone has put up a poster or implemented a policy. Rather, respect is about the little things that people do or say every single day, often without thinking about it.”

Being positive on purpose at the Ethics Luncheon

Being positive on purpose at the Ethics Luncheon

It’s also about how we respond when someone presents us with a report or complaint of disrespectful, or even abusive, behavior. What’s your first reaction in that scenario? The EEOC says it should be two words: Thank you.

Here are some other suggestions for how to respond (and NOT to respond) respectfully to reports of rude or harassing behavior at work:


  • Thank you.

  • I appreciate your trusting me enough to bring this to my attention.

  • We take this very seriously.

  • This should not be happening.

  • We will take steps to get to the bottom of this right away.


  • Why are you just bringing this forward now?

  • I have a hard time believing this.

  • What was your part in it?

  • Why do you think they did those things?

  • Have you told them to stop?

Did you know that the EEOC offers no-cost outreach programming? They also offer many publications and resources free of charge. Read about their work, programming, and contact an outreach coordinator at eeoc.gov.