Dear Young Professional,
Does the #METOO Movement have you conflicted?
WHAT are you saying Aunt Kris? Isn’t this movement overdue?
I know what you must be thinking. Hear me out…
Years ago, I am talking about the 80’s early 90’s maybe before you were born, my company had all employees take Harassment and Sexual Harassment training. While that may seem like a “no brainer” to you in today’s environment, this was more than a decade before it was a mandatory compliance issue for business. Where the courts would make employers pay if they could not provide evidence of a compliant training program.
One of our worst office offenders was a sales guy (let’s call him Rick – not his real name) who was always making suggestive comments and overtures. Like all of us, he had to go through the training. Armed with this new knowledge, he was on the alert to spot any possible harassment in our office. A bit like the fox watching the hen house, however we encouraged his observations in hopes the content of the training would stick and change his behavior.
A week after completing the training, his girlfriend came into the office to go out to lunch with him. She was a beautiful and impeccably dressed woman. She wore the most amazing shoes. A female colleague of ours made a comment on her shoes – typical banter you might hear between girls when we admire fashion. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Then two days later my colleague who made the comment was called into the HR office. Rick had submitted a formal complaint that our colleague had harassed his girlfriend by making suggestive sexual comments about her shoes. With a no-tolerance policy our colleague was written up and placed on probation. A stellar performer for years now with a tainted reputation.
Women of my generation have seen and experienced many wrongs by the opposite sex, and sometimes by the same sex. Remember there were not many options for moving up in my day. If I am keeping it real, women were not particularly helpful to one another.
I am not saying what is happening in the #METOO movement is equal to a shoe comment up for interpretation. What I am saying is there are similar cautionary tales and lessons to heed.
Yes, this movement is overdue. Behaviors of people who through multiple accounts of abuse, such as Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein need to be held accountable and get help to break the cycle.
What concerns me is why we learn to navigate this landscape of momentum, we must consider context, intentions and thoughtful review of possible resolutions. In the case of my co-worker who made the shoe comment:
- The context of the comment was in an office setting and the norms and responsibilities in that environment was often like a family teasing one another. We had not yet anchored the learnings from training and there was no legal consequence as a factor. That is not a judgment of right or wrong just a documentation of the context.
- Was the intention of the colleague to make Rick’s girlfriend uncomfortable? Most likely it was not, however if it did make her uncomfortable that should be addressed. The girlfriend’s reaction was only told through Rick.
- Finally, the company while admirable to be on the forefront of such an important topic, had a one-size fits all resolution.
As I watched the coverage leading up to the Oscar’s, I listened to more than one female entertainer or industry professional wrestle with how to respond to some reports of men’s behavior. That is just that, a report.
When an investigation for facts have not begun, what do we do? An accusation needs to be investigated and acted upon based on the findings. How do you wrestle with your morale compass, and let the truth come forth?
That’s a tough one. As the pendulum swings as it should, let’s also be mindful of equilibrium. Like any disruptive time, there is opportunity for those who have less than a moral compass to take advantage.
It happens, let’s look at natural disasters (think Katrina and businesses that over charges for supplies or services because demand was so high) and here we will see most likely frivolous or exaggerated claims in hopes of settlements for financial gain.
And fear of those claims only takes away the time, energy and focus off the situations that really need our attention. I’d like to believe that karma in the end has a way of making rights of wrongs we do not get the luxury to fully know all the details.
Do you believe in the power of Karma?