The Role Women Play in Minimizing Harassment in the Workplace
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 shined 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. Our U.S. Vice President Mike Pence even went as far to say that he chooses to not meet alone with a woman, and prefers a third party in the room to feel safe. 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 can women create trusting and cohesive business relationships with men, minimize the risk of working in hostile environments and alleviate the concerns and fears that many men 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. For many years’ women bit their tongue and resisted to speak out, often times leading to disengagement, early resignation or early retirement. According to the EEOC, however, only 10% actually report it to HR or leadership (eeoc.gov). There are a variety of reasons why women choose to go silent, from fear of termination, retaliation or fear of lack of follow thru. Since the #MeToo movement became 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 our male colleagues 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. If 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 help create an environment where it is safe to discuss difficult topics such as harassment and workplace conduct.
-We Teach People How to Treat Us. Boundary setting is critical in all relationships, especially in business relationships. If we don’t teach people what our personal boundaries are, then men are often times left guess and guessing leads to confusion and inappropriate behaviors (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 as a result of this #MeToo movement, and work towards creating a work environment that is based on open communication, respect and trust. It is imperative that women refrain 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.
For more information contact Taryn Abrahams,
Empower Behavioral Services