It was such a pleasure being a part of the inaugural Rady Women’s Forum last weekend, Discussions and Action Plans for Vibrant Leaders! The student-led, Rady admissions-supported event was filled with empowering sessions. I attended the two sessions immediately before mine and took away many suggestions for mindfulness and some very good negotiation tactics! I was sad not to be able to attend the morning sessions, but am told that they were equally as impressive and actionable.
Getting Ready to Stand: A fireside chat about standing up to gender-based harassment was also my inaugural conference session with my new book Getting Ready: Your Journal to Help You Deal with and Heal from Sexual Harassment. I very much appreciated everyone’s questions and because we only had time for a few of them, as promised, I will begin to address the rest of them here in my blog every week.
Today’s Discussion Question
For those who attended and want a refresher, and for those who were unable to attend, let’s start with a review of the questions already asked. Here is the first topic…
- How can one be certain they are harassed?
- Can you define sexual harassment?
These are the most fundamental questions that Getting Ready tries to help us all with. When can you know when your office colleagues are crossing the line? When can you know if you are crossing the line with your office colleagues?
The easiest way to answer the question is some proactive research. Because the repercussions can be dire, it makes sense for you to learn where the line is before you even get close to it, by asking questions of the right resources.
The first place to look is the law. The definition offered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a solid source you can rely on. However, it doesn’t say if s/he does _______, that’s sexual harassment and if s/he does ______, it’s not. There are very few resources that do that.
Most HR departments offer annual training that get close to answering the “generic” questions. But, one day, you might have specific examples to fill in those blanks above. And it’s sometimes scary to approach your own HR department with these specific examples.
So, again, be proactive. Start networking to find HR consultants in your geographical area or your industry. This can happen in person through meetups and business events in your area as well as virtually with networking sites like LinkedIn. Start slowly to learn who you can trust.
Once you find one you trust, they can be fantastic resources for your own learning about this as well as when that line is ever crossed. If you get to know them now, they will be knowledgeable allies on that fateful day. Yes, you may have to pay them for this service, but it might be worth it. Only you can decide.
Knowing whether yours or a colleague’s action(s) are considered sexual harassment isn’t always easy or clear. But we are resourceful, intelligent people and we can figure out just how we need to treat each other in the workplace.
Update: If you want help figuring out where the line is? Try taking this quiz from SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management.
My Hope for Each Other
I truly believe that the more we talk about it, the more we can find the line with each other, as long as we come “from the heart”. What I mean by that is that if we want to be respectful of our colleagues and simply have been thus far misguided in our actions, or had an occasional ‘oops’ moment, we can change because our intention for treating each other with respect is from the heart. It’s genuine. It is my hope that this website is a resource to that higher purpose.
I started the Share Your Stories portion of this website and suggest in Getting Ready that you gather every 12 weeks or so with 2-3 members of your tribe, because the line is blurry and, so far, we haven’t mastered this yet. We need to explore the definition and our actions. Beside those two activities (sharing your story and gathering), you are welcome to provide your comments below and help move the discussion along.
We also need a sounding board for that exploration. It is my hope that HR consultants, advocates, life coaches and others with expertise in this area will comment on your questions on this site and offer you the feedback and guidance you need to help you know where that line is. Some of them have already made themselves available to you on the Access Resources portion of this website. Here’s a great networking opportunity for you – Invite them to your gatherings!
It’s up to you, though, to be proactive. Every context is different. Ask the questions of trusted sources. Seek the answers. Before you need them.
I look forward to hearing of your questions and progress!
Stay tuned for next week’s question from the Forum!