When topics that are close to mandated reporting arise
Q: I’m in a group setting facilitating and someone shares something that borders on the edge of a mandated reporter situation.
A: Full disclosure, I’m not an expert on mandatory reporting. Take everything I say with a grain of salt. But here’s the thoughts that I have –
If your organization is early in addressing these issues and there are not many safe places people can go to raise issues, then anticipate that in a workshop that builds authenticity, connection, and honesty, that people are going to bring up issues that may get close or cross that line to requiring mandatory reporting.
Make sure you talk to HR, Ombuds, or anybody else in the organization that is related to mandatory reporting. E.G. anyone involved in bias response, grievance processes. Let them know you want to have their name, number, email and any suggested next steps for people who need a confidential place to talk through what’s going on/strategize how to move forward. This might be on a chart or slide or cards for folks in the workshop.
Ask HR or the Ombuds person what they recommend for your opening. I want them to help you do this because they need to realize that the culture is such that people are using workshops to share very challenging difficult situations that may be at the level of mandatory reporting. Maybe they are not finding other ways to do so in the organization.
It could be perception that HR is a sieve. Many organizations I go to (true or not), people will say, “I will not go to HR because I did once, it got back to my supervisor, I will never do it again.” Now, that could have been five years ago, but the culture is much older sometimes than the current reality. HR could be completely different; they could be revolutionized and brilliant today. But if the stories are still there, the impact is, too. So, you can help the reporting and support structures better know what the climate is by engaging them prior to the workshops.
You can set up understanding in your opening.
“Our intent here is to have an open honest engaged conversation And, sometimes in these workshops, people have issues in their organization with another person that is a mandatory reporting situation. Do you all know what that is?
You may want to have a slide that has the description and clarify if your role is a mandatory reporter. Teach them what it is, give them a couple of examples E.G
“So, someone says, I’m being sexually harassed by a colleague, or if someone says there is verbal battering and verbal bullying happening in our organization… I need to be a part of helping that get reported. If you’ve got some of those situations during the session or break or afterwards, I will gladly be a support and if you tell me about the specifics, I may need to report.”
In the workshop, if someone shares something that’s close to the line, you might say,
“I am so sorry that’s going on or happening to you, it really gets my attention. How many folks have heard or seen similar dynamics?”
Notice, it’s a shift to the full group conversation and off the one-on-one specific example. Then you can encourage talk in general about when these types of situations happen, what could be some resources. You can also keep it at the facilitator level and reference another organization where similar dynamics happened, and what they did or some resources they had.
And of course, reinforce your willingness/availability to stay after the workshop. Make it clear…these types of situations are counter to an inclusive organizational culture, so you want to support everyone getting the support, the resources, and the skills to be able to shift their one-on-one situation as well as the climate and the culture.