Scenario #31 – Leading the Team

Scenarios 28-41 in Getting Ready: Your Journal to Help you Deal with and Heal from Sexual Harassment prompt us to think about proactively and positively leading the team – how we might intervene from a leadership perspective, when sexual harassment shows up in our workplace.

This month’s Second Sunday discussion focused on Scenario #31:

You are the supervisor of a 30-person missed-gender team. You overhear some of the men expressing frustration with the #MeToo Movement. You’ve seen some of the women at some of the Women’s March events.

Getting Ready

And here are some of the questions and insights that this month’s scenario raised for me…

1. Think

The first question that comes to mind is… from what lens are you seeing this dynamic? Because, how you see the situation will telegraph what you think about the situation.

  • Do you side with those that are frustrated?
  • Do you side with those that, like you, attended the March?
  • Do you hide your position to keep the peace?
  • Do you see all sides?

The second question that comes to mind is…are your thoughts positive?

  • What comments do you say to yourself?
  • Are they snide?
  • Are they kind?

What some experts suggest:

In the world of Unbeatable Mind, the very first thing we are taught to do when facing a challenge is to become aware of any negative thoughts. The second thing we are taught to do next is immediately turn those negative thoughts into positive ones. This always applies to the “I” sphere – the “all about me” sphere – but this approach can also apply to the “We” sphere. If we have negative thoughts about the values and opinions of others, then our words and actions will follow. This includes verbal and non-verbal communication.  

Jennifer Porter, in her article for Harvard Business Review, poses a powerful question to help leaders get right to the heart of the issue: How are you reacting to this conversation and what in you is causing your reaction? And she offers this advice for properly handling a scenario involving heated debates between coworkers – whether you are the supervisor, or one of the team members:

“Learn to master these three foundational capabilities: internal self-awareness, external self-awareness, and personal accountability.

Jennifer Porter

2. Say

The first question that comes to mind regarding what could be said in this situation, is literally, what can supervisors say and what can employees say in the workplace?

The technical, and legal answer to this question is offered by SHRM, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive human resources organizations. Lisa Nagele-Piazza’s article on free speech in the workplace is enlightening and at the same time empowering. Once you know what can and cannot be said in the workplace environment, knowing how to intervene becomes easier.

“Employees don’t have a constitutional right to free speech at work, but employers still need to be aware of federal and state laws that do protect workers’ speech in certain situations.”

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, SHRM

What some experts suggest:

But Don Miguel Ruiz has a more heart-centered approach to this situation with his Agreements. He proposes that we should all be impeccable with our words, not take anything personally and don’t make assumptions.

The Unbeatable Mind Academy teaches us to put our words through a 3-step check, before we say them: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

I also like Tom Colicchio’s suggestion, in his open letter to all male chefs, that we must do more than just react to these situations. He suggests that we proactively remove gendered slurs from the workplace vocabulary.

Mike Maddock coaches us to proactively learn what to say and how to say it when there’s disagreement, especially with strong naysayers. He wants us to put this skill on our professional growth plan. It’s a thing – how to handle the naysayer on your team. Is it on your professional growth plan?

We don’t think about what we are about to say and we just blurt out our words. If you think you are immune from needing to learn these skills and do this work to be ready for what to say in these moments, remember that this happens to everyone. Even Mr. Toni Robbins got caught off guard talking about the #MeToo Movement.

Most often the spontaneous words are true. And that’s where the tough work really starts. (See point #1 – Think)

3. Do

“What you do and what you tolerate in your presence best demonstrates your standards,” says Mark Divine in his new book Staring Down the Wolf. And this is so very true in this scenario.

All members of the team have the opportunity to stand up to the naysaying in this scenario. All members of the team have the opportunity to honor both the discomfort and the learning curve inherently caused by the #MeToo movement. Leaders in the team – both formal and informal – have the moral obligation to do something with that opportunity.

What do you do in these moments?

  • Do you speak up in the moment?
  • Do you stay silent?
  • Do you wait for a better time?
  • Do you go it alone?
  • Do you gather the allies and plan the discussion?
  • Do you reprimand, put on notice or fire anyone?

Proactive Do’s

  • Articulate your company values
  • Hire for emotional intelligence
  • Build your team based on those values
  • Build a culture of conscience, curiosity and inclusivity
  • Reflect and check in on your team’s culture and progress often

Do in the Moment  

  • Articulate the truth of what’s happening for all involved
  • Find a good time to talk when all can be receptive to what is shared
  • Use assertive communication
  • Seek swift and effective resolution for all involved as soon as possible

All that said, this scenario and the other scenarios in this section of Getting Ready are leading us all to make a list of the interpersonal and leadership skills we uniquely need to develop in order to respond appropriately in this moment.

What skills are on your “to do” list?

Let’s all commit to developing those skills as swiftly as possible!


P.S. If you are looking for a few good books to read besides those mentioned above, here are some good ones for this topic:

  • How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work, Shari Harley
  • The Guide to Compassionate Assertiveness: How to Express Your Needs & Deal with Conflict While Keeping a Kind Heart, Sherrie M. Vavrichek
  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler

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