Bad behavior in the workplace. It’s everywhere. Talk and accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct are almost daily occurrences. What has been most surprising to me is that bad behavior seems to be prevalent in every type of profession. So, when TONE networks held an event called Workplace Playbook for Women: The right response to wrong behavior, I tuned into its Facebook Live to hear what the experts had to say.
Right out of the gate experts told us about the two types of sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quo(meaning “this for that”) - this type of sexual harassment occurs when it is stated or implied that an act or employment decision depends upon whether the employee submits to conduct of a sexual nature.
- Hostile environment – this type of sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive working or learning environment
Next, came the helpful part.
We learned strategies for dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace.
I am going to share what I learned.
Know your company policy.
Valerie Grubb, a workplace expert, shared this insight with the audience: “Be very familiar with your employer’s policy and procedures. Information is power and you need to understand what your rights are. If you don’t follow policy you can negate your ability or rights to file for sex harassment.”
Most policies tell employees to report bad behavior immediately, usually to HR. But what happens if you don’t have an HR department or if HR tells you to suck it up and don’t rock the boat? “Look for someone outside of HR you could go to, maybe someone in legal that you trust,” Grubb said.
Whether the bad behavior is an ongoing problem or one-time event, when you report misconduct or harassment, bring any documentation you can get. You need documentation. What should that documentation look like? Grubb said it should look like this: “Here’s what happened, here’s what I did about it.”
Have an action plan.
To tackle the bad behavior in the moment, you have options. Dr. Ramani Durvasula said she realizes that when misconduct happens, the receiver often is in state of shock and usually either screams or stays silent. “You’ve got to learn from each one of these events,” she said. “The next time, be ready. Have your well thought out response in the back of your mind.”
If touching or groping is involved, tackle it head on, Dr. Durvasula says. For example, you could say, “Wow that was really awkward, particularly with all the headlines going on right now” or you could say, “I don’t appreciate your behavior or comment and I need it to stop.” The important thing, she emphasized, is that you need to make them understand their behavior is not appreciated. She acknowledged that some people never will get it. “Those are more toxic individuals,” she said.
Don’t be intimidated.
It’s rather typical to worry that reporting misconduct will cost you your job, especially if the perpetrator has power. If HR is not going to help you and finding another job might not be an option, try to find a champion in your company, someone who can help you, Grubb suggested. At the end of the day, if you are telling HR legal that you have an issue and they do nothing about it, you have to quit, she said. “If you’ve been documenting information, it might be worth going to a lawyer, or the EEOC, or legal aid.”
Stick up for others.
If you notice a male supervisor intimidating a female employee, speak up.
“Put on your women’s ears,” Dr. Durvasula said. “Listen for the interruptions when another woman is presenting a point. When she is interrupted, say ‘hey didn’t get to hear rest of what Vakl said.” Then turn toward her and ask “Val what were you going to say?”
If you see a woman being treated inappropriately, speak up to empower her. Dr. Durvasula suggests: “I’m so sorry. I just saw that and you did nothing wrong." As the doctor noted: "When a woman is suffering, it is your business.”
Say no firmly.
TONE network's Liz O’Keefe asked the panelist how to handle awkward date requests in the workplace. "If someone at work continues to ask you out after you have repeatedly said no, you need to be incredibly clear that you are not interested," Grubb said. Say something like, “I don’t appreciate that you keep asking me out. I need you to stop.”
Another awkward scenario might occur when joking around turns offensive.
“I will say funny joke and someone takes to next level,” Grubb said. “That’s when you need to sit and in a calm voice have a conversation and outline the boundaries.”
Put yellers in perspective
How do you handle a yeller or screamer in the workplace? There is not a simple answer, and yet, yelling is not considered sexual harassment, even if it’s a way of asserting control. Grubb said she has handled yellers by . O’Keefe raised the question of how to react when just the opposite occurs: a male client or boss calls you sweetie. Dr. Durvasula offered an easy response: “Call him sweetie right back.”
To read more on handling bad workplace behavior, visit my personal blog CindyKeepsUp.com.