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This One’s for the Girls…

This One’s for the Girls…

THIS ONE’S FOR THE GIRLS…

This post is a little different than my norm. It has a rather “technical” slant to it.  In any event, I decided to blog about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged perv acts for three reasons:

  1. Everyone else is…and he deserves the pile on.
  2. I have expertise in this arena. Mind you, not with sexual harassment, but investigating claims of SH. Back in my military days I investigated SH allegations.
  3. The big reason is because I have two daughters who, in the next few years, will graduate from college and enter the workforce. So this one’s for the girls; mine and yours.

While in the Air Force I worked in field of Equal Opportunity and Human Relations Education. With that, I investigated or oversaw many cases of sexual harassment. Some were relatively minor (unwanted sexual jokes/language), but some more serious.

Many sexual harassment cases were not cut and dry. I recall a case that involved a culture of ongoing horse play in a working environment. Both men and women were participating in ongoing sexual jokes, comments, flirting, and antics. While it was unprofessional behavior, technically it was not sexual harassment because no one was complaining. However, when the husband of one of the participating women got word of this horse play, he demanded (to her) that it stop. Over the next weeks, she stopped participating, but others didn’t. What once was behavior that she participated in became “unwelcomed” and therefore SH. It was only reported because a friend of hers stepped up. We investigated and they were found in violation. A couple of supervisors got slammed…but all involved were reprimanded for their unprofessional behavior.

The official breakdown… Sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination—a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Accordingly, it is broadly defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” The key operating words are “sexual” and “unwelcome.” Those words essentially separate unprofessional behavior from sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment comes in two forms: “hostile work environment” and “quid pro quo.” Hostile work environment means the offender is causing the victim to well…work in an environment that is intimidating, hostile, or offensive. Quid pro quo involves—usually someone in a position of power (of any sort)—using unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other sexual verbal/physical conduct as a condition of employment or advancement (blatant example: “you give me sex and I’ll promote you”). This can be implicit or explicit.

It’s important to note that both men and women can be sexually harassed, but typically men are the offenders.

But it gets uglier… There is another possible aspect to the Weinstein drama and it involves allegations of sexual assault. Sexual assault involves anything from physical coercion to rape. This reaches beyond denying someone of their civil rights. It is a violent crime.

What about Harvey? Assuming Weinstein is guilty—and it looks bad—his behavior would likely fall under both forms sexual harassment. If you compare what is alleged to the law…he created a hostile environment (for those seeking work with his company) and “quid pro quo” (i.e., give me sex and I’ll get you a film deal). Even if he didn’t say those words, it could have been implied. There are also allegations of sexual assault.

For the girls… My concern is not Harvey…I could not care less about him. He’s headed to court and if guilty, may rot in jail broke. What I care about are my girls and your girls (and boys); and helping them to deal with pervs like Harvey. So here’s what you should know:

  1. Sexual assault. My girls know what I say about sexual assault…fight back with any means possible. Then call me. Then we’ll call the police.
  2. Pay attention. Not every joke, utterance or advancement is sexual harassment. However, know where you draw the line. Is the person too “regular” with the jokes or comments? Are the jokes getting worse? Do they get too close physically? Are they acting “creepy?” Many people who step over the line know they are doing so, but take the inch-by-inch approach. They are “testing the waters.” Take notice of these things and do something to stop it sooner rather than later.
  3. Don’t tolerate any form of harassment. Once you believe someone is approaching or crossing the line, speak up. It isn’t always easy. This was likely the case with some or many of the Weinstein encounters. Tell harasser to “knock it off.” You can say this politely or crudely…but make it crystal clear. If it’s a member of management, report them to their superiors in writing.
  4. For the “oops, I didn’t mean to offend you situations.” There are some cases where someone you genuinely like is starting to get too close to the line…and you don’t believe they intend to harm you. These might be people who are overly flirting and perhaps clueless that their behavior is not welcome. In these cases, I advise employees who “don’t want to get the person in trouble” to tell them once, maybe twice…but be clear about “stop” and “no.” If they cross that line again, then it’s on them.
  5. Stand up for yourself. There are likely some in the Weinstein cases who felt trapped and helpless to do something about his aggression. This is often the case in working environments. Imagine a single mom employee, with a job they love, who can’t afford not to be working, and they have some supervisor making advances. An employee like this looks at their situation and feels they are taking a big risk to report a situation they can’t prove. In such a case, you must find an ally to help you think through your options and actions. Also, document everything. It will take courage, but you must act. In other situations, sometimes women will tolerate a certain amount of bad behavior because they don’t want the drama and/or feel like they can handle the harassment and so they just ignore and suppress it. Others rationalize, “boys will be boys.” Just know, if someone is making advances suggesting “you might get the job, project, promotion if you…,” this is not “boyish” behavior or anything you should tolerate. These are perverts and you should not tolerate their behavior even one iota. Stand up for yourself by standing up to them.
  6. Don’t sell your soul… I suspect some of the “victims” knew what Weinstein was doing was seriously wrong, but they tolerated it or even went along just to “get the gig.” Don’t ever sell your soul to the devil in this way—even if it means your job.

 A special word for the complicit? As it is beginning to come out, [I hope] it will become crystal clear that there were many people who were aware of Weinstein’s behaviors. It appears there were powerful men, women and institutions who knew about his bad ways. Some not only knew about it, but collaborated with him and took money from for their own self-interests—including politics and “foundations.”  Others were in positions of power, influence and experience and had the ability to spare many young and/or innocent women from this man’s wrath. Some even covered for him. For these people…first, spare the good people of this country with your fake outrage, righteous indignation and lectures about civil rights. More…you are complicit and should be ashamed.

“Baltimore”…Coming to a Town Near You?

“Baltimore”…Coming to a Town Near You?

I’ve been reluctant to blog about the events going down in Baltimore. Most of us are not only overwhelmed by this volatile event, but also overwhelmed by the deluge of people’s opinions and emotions. And you know what they say about opinions. Yes, I have one to, but I’m under no illusion that people are sitting around waiting to hear mine.

As a blogger, I made a decision [way back when] to blog about serious current events only if I could offer something useful to my readers—and not simply create more noise with my take on things. In this case, I’m drawing on my many years of study and work experience in helping organizations manage race/human relations and conflict.

BaltimoreRiot

With events going down such as with Baltimore—and other recent similar events—the question I ask is, “How does what’s going on impact the average working American or community that is not directly impacted or involved?”

Is this a situation coming to your town soon? Probably not. But there are some things to think about–maybe to be concerned about.  That’s what I’m blogging about today.  And while there may be many things to think about, I’ll only point out a few—along with an action to consider:

 Be Concern About:     Simple Action to Take:
Becoming “virtual victims.” Check your mindset
What’s happening in your own
community.
Sit up, pay attention and ask the
question … “how are things going
in your city, town and
neighborhoods?”
The impact it may be having in your
organization and working
environment.   

Keep your finger on the pulse of the
human relations  climate in your
workplace, organization or business.


Be aware of becoming a “virtual victim”

I’m a big believer in looking inward—as this affects the outward. So let do that first by looking at our own mindset and behaviors.

I mentioned this in a previous blog…but it bears repeating. By way of television and social media, some (perhaps many) have become “virtual victims.” It seems that some have gone well beyond observing and empathizing with the real victims and have become one. Thus, walk around with exposed hyper-emotions of frustration, fear and anger.

Why is this happening seemingly more and more?

Neil Postman wrote about this many years ago in his book Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1986). One of books major themes is that the television—and now Internet and social media—has turned the world into one giant “virtual neighborhood” (aka the “global village”). In many ways this has been a good thing. But the down is when we become “virtual victims.” We go from be observers, “OMG! look at what’s happening in Baltimore!” to victims, “I can’t believe they are treating us this way.” We go from watching the horrors in Baltimore and Ferguson and start rioting in our own towns.

We go from empathizing to internalizing.

I think it goes without saying that I’m not talking about identifying, being concerned, caring, empathizing, sympathizing, or even getting down-right pissed off at what we are seeing being played out on television. What I’m cautioning about is…taking what’s happening there and treating it as though it is happening here. In fact, our objectivity is very important in helping to solve the problem. If we become outraged victims…that’s how civil wars get started.

So what do we do about it? At the risk of sounding like the “thought-police” I’ll just offer that we all simply have to check ourselves. We have to check our own mindset—perceptions, expectations and attitudes—try to keep things in the proper perspective, look at things objectively as possible, and as my wife always says, “let’s not borrow trouble.”

Be aware of what’s happening in your own community
All that I just stated doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention. In fact, some cities and towns need to pay attention and even take action for their own community. However, in a proactive way.

Whenever I hear about a parent who lost a child to texting-while-driving or to drugs…I sometimes hear the parent say “I never thought this would happen to my son [or daughter]!” And while my wife and I feel for the parent, we also look at the situation and try to learn from it. More, we likely take action. We have a conversation with our daughters and caution them about driving-while-texting or being in the “wrong” place. We sit up, pay attention and listen. We “hear” the parent saying “this could happen to you!”

Have you thought about or heard with Baltimore, Ferguson and others? Perhaps our communities and towns need to sit up and pay attention.

I’ve worked in the field of human relations and conflict resolution for many years. And I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve experienced organizations reach for help only after some big event has gone down. Only after a sexual harassment lawsuit, threat of a union petition, or after dismal results from an employee survey do they take action. And like Baltimore, the leaders find themselves in a nightmare scenario…and forced to engage in damage control.

The leaders in Ferguson, Baltimore and other communities knew, or should have known, there were ticking time bombs. But instead they ignored it and now they are paying a very severe price and trying to pick up the pieces.

Does every city need to go on “Red Alert?” Of course not, but what they should all do is sit up, pay attention and ask the question … “how are things going in our city, town, and neighborhoods.” Are there any ticking time bombs? Could Baltimore be us?

Be proactive and don’t be afraid of the answers.

Be aware of the impact that societal events may be having in your organization or workplaces.
Workplaces being more or less structured and controlled environments—and hopefully where folks are relatively content and busy—there is little concern for a major upheaval. However, if you are a manager in an organization, it is really important that, during times like this, you keep your finger on the pulse of the human relations climate in your workplace, organization, or business.

There are divisive attitudes and conversations taking place in break-rooms and cubicles, on shop floors, and in corporate offices all across this nation. And given the seriousness of what’s going on in our nation, the deep emotions being generated, and constant visuals and negativity from the media…all of this gives rise to the need for managers to keep their ears to the ground.

In most places, there is little to no need for concern. However, in highly culturally diverse workplaces or geographical areas where morale is already low—or where cultural divides and polarization already exists—this sort of thing can deepen the distrust, increase the tension, and lower the morale amongst employees. This of course will result in more conflict and less productivity.

So is Baltimore coming to your town?  Well…that depends on the climate, situation and circumstances in your town.

So…what is your situation?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.