How Human Resources Can Use Systems Thinking to Stop Harassment Lawsuits

Human Resources

Summary: Human Resources can leverage systems thinking to reduce lawsuits by adopting a holistic and proactive approach to address organizational issues. Systems thinking involves understanding the interconnectedness of various components within a system and how they contribute to the overall outcomes.

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

Everyone is running to HR to complain. It is, however, the first thing out of someone’s mouth when they are upset. “I’m going to HR” is both a threat and a challenge. It’s more than that.

It’s an addiction!

For instance, almost everyone seems burnt out from all the hate and violence in our world, and it shows up at work, too.

Can you give some pointers on transforming the anger and revenge tactics that are getting louder and more vicious?

In short, my main question is: “Why can’t we all get along?”



Diversity is a complex mix of statistics, emotions, and generational patterns.

Dear Sunshine,

I see you peeking out from the clouds.

Suppose you are the head of HR, yay you. And if you ask, “Why can’t we all get along,” good for you!

First, here is a true story of how a significant organization bypassed a lawsuit and ugly public relations to find a better balance at work.

The scene at work began when several executive team women came to HR to complain about how the males were treating them.

Favoritism creates lots of unhappy employees who feel discounted.

The plum assignments were going to men, who had the numbers to show this was true.

A golf outing scheduled during the last off-site only included the men (or so these women were told).

A hostile work environment lawsuit was starting to gain leverage.

Everyone at work was in the process of choosing sides. More effort discussing the diversity issues took precedence over how to open the newest retail store for the holidays.

Consequently, there was frustration about what mattered at work. Everyone was wondering if the teams could ever finish for success.

Systems thinking will give more options than “fire them!”

HR called my coaches to move the needle from “mad to glad.”

Firstly, we took the temperature of the organization. It was in the toxic zone.

We allowed each person to express their thoughts without interrupting them or hoping to change their minds.

Thus, the first vital step is to listen without what I call “JUBLA” (judgment, blame, or attack).

Next, we included the two main “complainers” in the decisions on the next steps.

Finally, together, we devised a plan for a “town hall” discussion on what needs to improve.

At the same time, we also discussed how patterns of behavior from childhood often show up at work. This happens when we feel we are attacked or discounted.

The behavior pattern that impacts HR is the Rebel who wants to destroy rather than negotiate.

That is to say, the most apparent pattern with the two women who initially went to HR was that of the REBEL.

You can read more about the rebel pattern in Don’t Bring It To Work on pages 137-140.

I want to explain that the rebel pattern transforms into the community builder. The community builder takes disagreements and helps them become pathways to collaboration.

The result of several discussion groups was to offer monthly meetings to discuss the data and psychological concerns about communicating more effectively. Many books helped the discussions, including the short ebook “Gender Speak.”

Books that help people understand the communication styles of others are winners.

As an illustration, another favorite is an older book still relevant today, “Men Are From Mars, and Women Are from Venus.”

Here is a list of the ten areas vital for transformation using systems theory:

  1. Identify and Analyze Root Causes: Use systems thinking to identify the root causes of workplace issues that could lead to lawsuits. Look beyond individual incidents and examine systemic factors such as policies, procedures, culture, and communication channels.
  1. Holistic Policy Review: Evaluate existing HR policies and procedures comprehensively. Ensure policies align with legal requirements and consistently apply across the organization. Consider how policies interact with each other and whether they contribute to unintended consequences.
  1. Training and Education Programs: Implement training programs that address the underlying issues identified through a systems thinking approach. Educate all employees, managers, and leaders on legal compliance, diversity and inclusion, and other relevant topics. Systems thinking is the way for the future to limit lawsuits.

It takes time to look at all the puzzle pieces to be successful with human resource issues.

  1. Communication Strategies: Foster open communication within the organization. Systems thinking emphasizes the importance of effective communication channels. HR should facilitate transparent communication to prevent misunderstandings and potential conflicts that could escalate into legal issues.
  1. Performance Management Systems: Ensure that performance management systems are fair, consistent, and aligned with legal requirements. Evaluate how performance evaluations, promotions, and disciplinary actions interconnect and can impact employee relations.
  1. Conflict Resolution Processes: Develop and promote effective conflict resolution processes. Encourage employees to voice concerns and resolve conflicts. Use mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods before resorting to legal action.
  1. Continuous Monitoring: Regularly monitor and assess the effectiveness of HR policies and practices. Systems thinking involves ongoing evaluation and adjustment. Stay informed about changes in employment laws and regulations to ensure compliance.
  1. Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: Promote diversity and inclusion within the organization. A diverse and inclusive workplace is less likely to be a breeding ground for discrimination and harassment, reducing the risk of legal action.
  1. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Implement EAPs to support employees facing personal or professional challenges. A holistic approach to employee well-being can contribute to a healthier work environment and reduce the likelihood of legal disputes.
  1. Legal Compliance Audits: Conduct regular legal compliance audits to identify and address potential risks. Evaluate the entire HR system, including recruitment, onboarding, training, and termination.

In conclusion, organizations can create a more resilient and legally compliant environment by applying systems thinking to HR practices.

In fact, this approach focuses on preventing issues rather than merely reacting to them. This ultimately reduces the likelihood of lawsuits.

Here’s to your success,

Sylvia Lafair

PS. If you would like a complimentary copy of the 13 most common behavior patterns at work and their positive transformation, please visit the contact page at

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Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options