What do you do when the boss does nothing?
“What do you do when the boss of an abuser does nothing to reprimand? They were a witness.”
This was one of the questions at a recent seminar on how to stand up against sexual harassment.
I am saddened by this question. Not shocked. Just saddened. The attendees were mostly women, some men, and mostly in the early 20’s. To be so young and to already know the injustice of domination and sexual power play in the workplace just saddens me.
What advice do I have? Leave! Get out of that job as soon as you can.
The boss clearly is the type of leader that supports the sexual power play. His/Her ethics are, no doubt, reprehensible. It is his/her job to care for the safety and security of his workers, and to ensure that the laws of employment are adhered to. If s/he did not act in the moment to protect you, then s/he likely won’t ever. Same thing applies to what our young student is calling “the abuser.”
In addition, the bosses that display these types of ethics often are driven by pride, and perhaps lust. If you called him/her on his/her lack of response and consequently his/her endorsement of the abusive behavior, s/he likely will retaliate against you. The level of anger fueling their retaliation will likely be directly proportional to the threat you pose to his/her career. If that happens, then you AND your career are toast. Same thing applies if you call out “the abuser.”
In the Moment
Can you avoid the scenario? Do you have strong verbal self-defense skills? If not, is there a support center in your neighborhood or online that can teach you? A good come back is priceless. And usually only thought of after the moment has long been over. There is nothing more satisfying than standing up for yourself in a way that doesn’t damage the pride and fear of the people you are standing up against. They say humor is always useful in these situations but it is often difficult to be funny and pithy when you have just been violated. You really have to be in control of your responses to pull that off!
If the abuse was physical, do you have physical self-defense skills? If not, is there a support center in your neighborhood that can teach you?
After the Moment
Once an event like this happens, the first thing you do is to find a quiet moment as quickly as possible, a good notebook chosen just for this sort of thing, and write it all down. Date. Time. Location. If the reason for you being there was work related or not. People in the area. People who should have been in the area but were not. What was said. What was not said. What was done. What was not done. It might take some time to write all this out.
Why are you doing this, if your intention is to leave that job? Easy. You need it to heal. You have just been violated. Your sense of justice. Your sense of fairness. Your sense of purity. All have just been violated and you have just become a victim.
Tomorrow will be a very different day in your life because of what happened on this day and what did not happen on this day. Including how you decide to react to it. I encourage you to do whatever you can as fast as you can, to not remain a victim. In my book, I call this staying in or getting back to Full Bloom.
For your own mental, physical and spiritual health, you need to articulate as soon as possible what was done to you. What you had control over and what was not your fault. It may seen inconsequential to you. After all, you are a powerful, modern, self-reliant person and you can handle this! All this may indeed be true, but the depth and influence of the hurt are often beyond our ability to comprehend immediately.
Yes, maybe one day, you will use what you have written down during your exit interview with HR when you leave the company, after you have already landed the next job or maybe even years from now. But really, the main focus I have for you – HR consultants and other resources may have different advice – is to get back to being whole as soon as possible.
Write it out. Then talk it out with your mental health professional. If you have an HR consultant in your life, independent of your workplace HR, talk with them. Then go for a run or, in some way, exercise. There are specific exercises you can do to help release the trauma – no matter how small you think the trauma might be.
Trauma Releasing Exercises, or TRE, is an option for you. They are very simple techniques that you can do almost anywhere. You don’t need any equipment or special workout gear. Just get on the floor and shake it out!
Prepare for Next Time
The other thing you can do is get prepared for the next time. More than likely, it will take you some time to interview for and find that new job. This type of horrid event might happen again. Begin to make a plan to prepare for what you might think, say and do if such an event happens again.
Do you have an HR consultant you can talk to? If not, see if there are HR conferences, networking meetings in your area and invite yourself. Bring your business cards and tell the employee-facing consultants you are shopping for one. Many independent HR consultants will be open to this. Be certain though that you are conversing with consultants that support employees. The consultants that support employers have a different approach to their jobs.
Summing Up – An Invitation
Again, I am so sad that people so young are already experiencing these types of abuses. Though not at all shocked. The best advice for them from me is to take charge of their body, mind and spirit today and get prepared for tomorrow.
Are there others out there that have experienced the same thing or something similar? If so, please use the comments to tell us how you handled it. You can also choose to Share Your Story with us so that we can get more of an understanding of your unfortunate experience and resulting insight.
Are there professionals out there, resources, that can offer different advice to mine so that our readers facing this type of scenario can get a comprehensive point of view of how to prepare, respond and also heal from such an event?