The Role Women Play in Minimizing Harassment in the Workplace: #Metoo...Now What?
Since the MeToo movement was birthed in 2016 there has been a lot of attention surrounding harassment and discrimination in the workplace. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t hear or read about another claim or lawsuit that has taken place, as well as momentum and discussions on how to change legislation to meet the needs of our modern workplace. One thing is for sure, and that is this movement has shone a bright light on the issues of workplace conduct, and I don’t think this conversation is going to go away any time soon. Some professionals would say that this movement has had a negative impact on workplace relationships, causing fear and guardedness to envelop into our business relationships. Some would even go as far as to say that a lot of harassment claims are fabricated and, in some cases, “just made up.” Or that if I get too close to my female co-worker, she will accuse me of some wrong doing and my career will be over. According to a recent study, 60% of male managers are guarded about working alone with a female colleague. With all of this fear and distrust swirling around our places of work, the question really becomes how we as women can create trusting and cohesive business relationships, minimize the risk of working in hostile environments and alleviate the concerns and fears that many feel today.
The Role Women Play
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 85% of women have experienced some form of harassment/discrimination in the workplace. However only 10% actually report it to HR or leadership (eeoc.gov). There are a variety of reasons why women in the past have not spoken up, from fear of termination, retaliation or fear of lack of follow thru. For many years’ women bit their tongue and resisted to speak out, often times leading to disengagement, early resignation or early retirement. Since the MeToo movement become public, reporting has increased however there is more work that needs to be done. How can women help alleviate this distrust that has been created by this movement, and what can we do to help minimize these barriers? The following are some suggested best practices that can help shift the relationship with men in a positive direction:
-Practice More Open, Transparent Conversations With Men. Men are not mind readers, and even men that display appropriate behaviors can have a misstep from time to time. Ask yourself, How do I handle missteps? Do I exercise my voice or am I avoiding that situation hoping it will go away? The key is to approach the conversation carefully, respectfully and professionally and focus on educating others about your personal boundaries.
-Be Better Active Listeners. Having an open dialogue with men is a good first step, but we must remember that part of being an effective communicator is being a good active listener. We want to open up these kinds of conversations, we must be willing to hear the “other side” and take as much of an objective approach as possible. This is not easy to do, but with practice this can become
-We Teach People How to Treat Us. Boundary setting is critical in all relationships, especially business relationships. If we don’t teach people what our personal boundaries are, then they are left guessing and often times guessing leads to confusion and inappropriate treatment (sometimes unknowingly). Take the time to show others how we would like to be treated, to minimize the risk of inappropriate interactions.
By using our voice, we can start to have more effective conversations surrounding workplace conduct, help rebuild the trust that has been lost by men, and work towards creating a work environment that is based on open communication, respect and trust. It is imperative that women reframe from gossip and act with professionalism and help create allies with the men that we work with. The reality is we need men on our side, and by being aware of our part we can help strengthen those relationships.