Emtrain Blog

HR Made Easy Using 4 Colors

Posted by Janine Yancey

March 17, 2015


As an HR professional, you’re constantly running around doing damage control. It’s time to make your life just a little easier. To help, we’ve created the Workplace Color Spectrum™. Use this great tool to easily communicate and identify actions and comments that undermine the workplace and help differentiate between legally actionable conduct versus conduct stemming from poor teamwork, management, or communication.

How to Simplify HR With Colors

The Workplace Color Spectrum categorizes workplace actions into four categories: Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red.

Let's start with the basics. Click to quickly learn about the Workplace Color Spectrum:


When employees, managers, and HR are speaking the same language, it’s easier for everyone to be on the same page. Categorizing behavior into a color on the spectrum helps you communicate issues with anything from less-than-ideal behavior to major legal disputes.

Let’s see how each color works in the spectrum:


This type of behavior is respectful, positive, and productive. We are always striving for a Green-hued workplace. If you see actions in this color, you’re dealing with fabulous employees.

Here's an example of Green behavior:



Yellow behavior isn’t harassment, but is slightly problematic. This kind of behavior can be the result of poor management skills, poor communication, or lack of teamwork.

While the behavior in this next video isn't illegal harassment, the manager's abusive conduct creates a toxic, unproductive workplace.



Actions that fall into the Orange category approach the dangerous territory of harassment. Welcome or not, jokes or comments based on a protected characteristic (e.g. race, religion, gender, age, disability, etc.) can lead to unlawful harassment. This type of behavior is very likely to spread into the Red category.

Here's an Orange example where a manager opens the floodgates to harassment by telling her male employee that after-hours events (dinners, theatre, sports games) are mandatory for him to attend with her:



If determined to be severe or pervasive, any comments and actions based on protected characteristics fall into unlawful harassment. When there is Red activity, the workplace is unproductive, uninviting, and hostile. Once you’re in Red territory, you have unlawful harassment and there will likely be a lawsuit coming your way.

Here's a Red example that shows a manager illegally violating an employee's protected characteristics:

As you can see, it only takes a few Orange actions to get into the dangerous Red zone. The Workplace Color Spectrum can help you communicate and assess the actions that must be taken to ensure that unlawful harassment and even Orange behavior is stopped before it becomes an issue. In addition, employees know when they need to speak to a manager and when it’s appropriate to file a claim.

Click for your free Preventing Workplace Harassment course trial!

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Do you have a question about the Workplace Color Spectrum? Comment below or email us at experts@emtrain.com

Topics: HR Compliance, Preventing Harassment