"Zero tolerance" as to workplace harassment is a mantra we preach often, and have never thought that it could be considered controversial in any way.  However, one reader made us think, stating that although he agrees with the "the concept of zero tolerance in theory," nonetheless he "never knows exactly what it means. I’m afraid it’s an unworkable concept, misleading because of its ambiguity, and thus may lead to cynicism on the part of employees. I wish the term would just sort of ‘go away.’"


The idea of employee cynicism troubled us; among many other evils it is bad for company morale.  

Does anyone have any thoughts on the matter?    


Our friend also wrote very wisely that "organizations in which employees believe that (1) their company takes the issue [of harassment] seriously; (2) it is safe to complain; and (3) there are meaningful sanctions for offending, have many fewer problems with sexual harassment. The belief among employees that their organizations ‘tolerate’ harassment is the most powerful predictor of whether it will occur and will be damaging if it does."


We are considering whether to substitute this latter statement for the "ambiguous" term "zero tolerance."

Any advice?