POST-WEINSTEIN: NAVIGATING WORKING RELATIONSHIPS
My foray into sexual assault was in the first grade. After my Catholic school’s Christmas assembly consisting of a reenactment of the nativity scene, my teacher pinned me down to the ground, and while holding my face, began to kiss me on the mouth. I kicked, screamed, and shouted expletives until my parents came rushing into the room.
In the 10th grade, I received my first detention for “being overzealous with girls” for passing notes in English class for a friend. In college, I learned that “No” always means no. During my tenure as a professor, I learned from my students that sexual assault is more prevalent in the millennial hook-up culture than it is depicted in shows like Mad Men.
However, no matter how much I advocate and care, as a man, I am complicit. In the wake of #MeToo, a platform for giving voice to sexual assault survivors, what are the best ways to navigate and foster relationships in the workplace?
New Boundaries at Work
As an outgoing and friendly person, I find myself facing this dilemma often. I came across the Washington Post article, “Lunches, hugs, and break-room banter: Where are the new boundaries at work?” It mentions people are choosing not to travel with female associates for work trips due to a heightened sense of awareness of sexual assault.
The article states that Sandy Sayre, a nurse in Virginia says, “It’s very sad that we’ve gotten to his level where he’s afraid to give me a friendly hug because of what other people have done. I feel really bad for the people who’ve been victims of people who have gone way over the line.” To be frank, that line is always a very thin one.
Establishing Boundaries & Creating Comfort
I can’t offer the advice of treat others like you would your mother, daughter, or sister. I think that is unfair to women. There are indicators when someone feels uncomfortable. Body language plays a crucial role in this. Not all people will verbally tell you they feel uncomfortable, especially in the workplace. It is not their job to do so; however, it is your job to make others feel comfortable.
A means of creating a comfortable work environment is to establish boundaries. If I am not fond of a particular conversation, I will remove myself from the room. This helps others to determine my level of comfort around certain topics and situations. Communication is key. Communication is crucial. Communication is fundamental when building relationships with all people. When maintaining healthy relationships, the intention must be pure.
Don’t Force It
Can’t we all just get along? As a kid, I thought that I had to be everyone’s friend and grow to like them. This is not necessarily the case as we get older. Not everyone will be your cup of tea and vice versa. I recommend greeting everyone with a “Hello.” If people feel comfortable with you, they will open up. I am able to talk about my significant other with my colleagues and ask them about their personal lives because of the comfort level built. It takes time to get to know a person. If you have to fake or force it, especially in the workplace, it may not be worth the time.
We must begin to hold each other accountable. We have to stop being dicks. We have to stop thinking with our dicks. We must begin to listen to the ways in which others want to be treated. We must even the playing field and allow ladies to control the conversation. Listen to those same women to understand how we as men can do better and be better.
Are you looking for the time when women are paid the same wage? Are you waiting for the time that the number of powerful men are equal to the number of powerful women? Women’s rights? Empowering and fighting the patriarch? Are you ready to do better and live better? Yea, #MeToo.